Guard the Backdoor

In the game of basketball, sometimes the best strategy is to attack your opponent’s defense by employing a backdoor offense. What that means is that all the action takes place in front of the opposing team, distracting them from what is happening behind them. Then a player out of view sneaks in behind the defense and becomes briefly open before they know what hit them. The ball is delivered and an easy dunk or lay-up ensues. (see diagram below)

Illustration from basketballcoachweekly.net

As Christ-followers sometimes I think we still buy into the fact that our enemy – Satan – is the red, pitchfork-carrying, pointy tail, snake-like man that comes at us in the most obvious of ways.

Some of that is true. Not the physical characteristics but certainly our enemy attacks us from the front very often. He comes at us with blatant temptations. He tells us to seek ourselves. He tempts us with our fleshly lusts. We live in a world where pornography and obvious sexual references are everywhere and they seek to entice men especially.

We live in a culture that says “my truth” is the most important thing and all I have to do is “follow my heart.”

There are other various frontal attacks that we have to be aware of but let me encourage you to “guard your backdoor” as well. Oftentimes the fight seems to be out in front of us but the enemy is really using things to distract us from how he is really trying to get us.

That is why Peter reminds us to…

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

So guard your backdoor! What does that mean?

I wrote a post a few months ago about discouragement. Recently I shared this when I talked with a group of college students. The point is that discouragement only tells us half the truth. The whole truth is what God says about and in the midst of our discouragement.

I think that is Satan’s greatest ploy. Remember Satan is a thief.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

He wants to steal the fullness of life that Jesus has given us!

To get a Christian neutralized he will try to steal our confidence. We have to remember what Isaiah said to the Israelites…

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

The enemy will try to steal our peace. He will try to make us think that our peace is dependent on our circumstances.

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

He is after your joy. Not happiness. Your joy is something HE CAN’T TAKE. But he will try to sneak in the backdoor and rob it from you.

I have told you this so that My (Jesus) joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11

I think one of the biggest ways that satan subtly tries to win the war over us is by getting in our minds. Maybe we allow that too easily.

If he can change the way we think it changes everything else. He tells us and has us thinking – you can’t be good enough, you aren’t worthy, you are dirty, you are weak. Those things on their own are true but remember if we are in Christ THEY ARE ONLY HALF-TRUTHS. Jesus is the whole truth. He says you can’t be good enough, but because of what I did, I have made you righteous. You aren’t worthy, but I died for you anyway. You are dirty, but I made you as clean and white as snow. Yes, you are weak, but My strength is made perfect in your weakness.

I say all of this – I could go on for days about the subtle ways the enemy attacks the backdoor – but I say it to say – REMEMBER THE WHOLE TRUTH. Yes, guard from the obvious temptations. Avoid situations that you know will cause you to stumble. Be aware of the obvious vices that make you weak and vulnerable, but also guard the backdoor.

Discouragement, lack of self-worth, lack of confidence, lack of peace and joy. Satan will attack all of those and more. He will tell you that you don’t have a purpose. That you are insignificant and don’t matter. ALL of these are ways to get in your head and steal and destroy you from the inside out.

So don’t give the enemy a foothold. Stand firm against the front and backdoor attacks. How?

Get in the Word! Get around people that will encourage you. Get involved in using your gifts in the church. The more you know the truth and experience the truth, the more you will know how to guard the backdoor from the enemy.

I pray that this encourages you to be aware of the enemy, but more importantly, be sure of who you are in Christ, and helps you LIVE ON PURPOSE for Him!

Kevin

Everyone is a Leader

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

I was probably around 8 years old. At that point, baseball was my life. I absolutely loved it. My favorite team was the Atlanta Braves and my favorite player was Dale Murphy. That’s right, some of you remember!! Anyway, this team was the best. I knew their positions, the batting order, I literally watched them every day. At the time, the Brave’s third baseman was Bob Horner. Bob was a powerful hitter and a decent third baseman but the most vivid memory I have of him is that he always had a big ole chew of tobacco in his right cheek. I mean huge! Now, I have no idea why, but i thought that was the coolest thing. That is what a baseball player is supposed to look like. Chew. Spit. Hit home-runs. A few years later, I had the chance to put a chew in my mouth and I remember thinking, heck yes. I’m Bob Horner! So around 10 years old, a friend gave me his dad’s pouch of Red Man Chewing Tobacco and I put it in and started to chew. Most of you know where this story is going already. It probably took about thirty seconds for the first juices to hit my stomach and after that I became violently ill and spent the next few minutes throwing up more than what I had ingested! Needless to say, I never desired to chew again. But Bob Horner had had an effect on me and he never knew it.

Bob Horner

I tell you that story just to remind you today that we ALL have someone watching us. Whether you know it or not, whether you want it or not, you are LEADING SOMEONE.

SO…what we do matters. What we say matters. Our habits matter. Someone is watching. It could be your kids. Or any kid in your life. It could be your spouse. It most definitely is your co-workers or classmates. If you are a Christ-follower, those who aren’t Christ-followers are watching you. Eyes are on you. Period. So how you live and ultimately how you lead those watching completely matters. We don’t get to say, “I didn’t ask for it” or “I’m not a role model.” YES YOU ARE!

Now, I am not a leadership expert. I read a lot of guys that are and listen to podcasts. But this post and maybe a few to follow will be less about leadership principles and more about recognizing who and how we lead in a practical sense.

Today, I simply want to leave you with this.

Great leaders pray for those they lead.

Pray for you children. Pray for your co-workers. Intercede for them. Pray for their salvation. Pray for their relationship with God. So often we go to God and give Him our wants and our lists and our needs but we fail to intercede for those who are watching us. We fail to lift them up to the Lord. We are often so self-centered that we don’t pray with the proper perspective. How does my prayer life impact others? How does my prayer life impact eternity?

Great leaders pray with perspective.

Acknowledge that you have people watching you and then give them back to God. Yes, your children have been entrusted to you, but ultimately they are still God’s. So pray that way.

In the few posts that will follow, I want to look at Moses and his leadership. One thing that I will tell you about it is that he was a work in progress, BUT he realized his leadership and influence mattered in the life of God’s people. He prayed for them. He interceded for them. He fought ON HIS KNEES for them. What he prayed and how he prayed mattered!

So, today, spend some time thinking (maybe write it down) about those you influence and lead in your daily life. How are you leading them? Are you praying for them? Are you fighting for them on your knees?

This is purpose! This is part of what you were created and saved for! Take it seriously.

LIVE ON PURPOSE!

Kevin

The WAY Matters

I was a youth pastor years ago. One of the best trips I ever did with a group of students was a mission trip called “X-fuge” to the inner city of Chicago, Illinois. It was such a valuable, eye-opening week. Nichole and I took a group of about 10 students along with some of our chaperones and close friends on this trip. This was a work trip. We worked and served in places that we had previously only heard about on the news (and not in a good way). Anyway, during this trip, there was not a lot of time for us to do sightseeing or local stuff although we did make it to Wrigley Field for a Cub’s game.

The night before the morning we were to head home, my wife talks about wanting to see Lake Michigan before we headed back. That did not sound unreasonable. So our plan was to get up EXTRA early the following morning and find Lake Michigan before we left town.

An important thing to mention at this point in the story is that this was BEFORE cell phones with GPS. I had a Nokia 5165. We didn’t have anything but good old mapquest that we had to print out.

Back then, these directions didn’t account for things like traffic or construction (of which there was tons of both in Chicago) and, because they were printed on paper, once they were printed that was it!

So we take our printed mapquest directions to Lake Michigan, loaded up the van of students with a chaperone car behind us and set out to see the Great Lake.

Long story short, we hit construction unaccounted for in our directions and found ourself LOST in downtown Chicago. Nichole will tell you that when I am lost, I tend to drive faster and more wrecklessly. It is like something uncontrollable inside of me. She loves to say that I am “going NOWHERE fast!!” Anyway, I was frustrated. She was frustrated. I came to a stop sign and she let me know I needed to stop driving like I was and I said, “Fine – I will stop driving altogether.” I then proceeded to get out of the van in the middle of town, in the middle of the street, and walk around to her door. I opened it and said, “You drive and get us to your precious Lake Michigan.” She is now in tears. Students are silent. I am fuming. She quietly gets out (she is always so graceful), gets in the driver’s seat, and calmly navigates the construction to get us back on our printed directions and we soon find ourselves at beautiful Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan

Needless to say this was not one of my finest moments as a husband, youth pastor, or human being.

I tell you that story to say: THE WAY MATTERS. The way we drive matters. The road we take matters. The turn we make matters. The directions we follow matter.

So which WAY are you going? Which way are you living?

Most of you reading this probably consider yourselves to be Christians. DID YOU KNOW, though, that people who followed Christ as recorded in Acts were not called Christians until Acts 11 and when they were it was kind of other people making fun of them. It was derogatory.

Interestingly enough the people who followed Christ at this time were actually known by a name that we don’t hear much anymore, but maybe we should go back to.

Acts 9:2 …so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Acts 19:23 During that time there was a major disturbance about the Way.

Early believers were known as People of the Way. What Way? Well, remember the words of Jesus to His disciples as He answers Thomas’ questions.

John 14:5-6 “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Jesus clearly makes the claim that He was the WAY. He was specifically referring to the Way to God – heaven, but I submit to you that it was understood and implied that He was also the WAY to life on earth.

John 10:10  A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

So if Jesus is the WAY and we are to be known as people of the WAY, then how does that shape us?

For those believers in Acts, it was a reference to their LIFESTYLE. The WAY they lived their everyday life showed others that they followed Jesus.

WOW. I wonder as I am writing this if people could identify who I follow by the WAY I live…

What about you?

You see if we are going to live with purpose and truly follow Christ then the WAY in which live matters! I’m not saying we will be perfect. I am saying the WAY in which we live matters! The WAY in which we live will determine our priorities. Our priorities will shape our purpose.

So men, if you are a Christ-follower, the WAY in which you treat your wife matters. Do you love her like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her?

Parents, the WAY you lead your children matters. Do we live in such a way that shows the importance of the things or God or the things of this world to our children?

The WAY in which you work matters. Does the way you work indicate who you follow?

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men,

The WAY you talk matters. The WAY you think matters. The WAY you make decisions matters.

THE WAY MATTERS! As followers of Jesus, the WAY we live our lives matters in every single way.

So when our lives are seen, is it evident to others that we are heading a certain WAY? Is Jesus evident? Are we people of HIS WAY or our own way? Maybe it is time we got out of the driver’s seat of our lives and let Jesus determine our way!

LIVE ON PURPOSE. LIVE THE WAY!

Kevin

Missing Moments

I was walking through a store yesterday and noticed that everything from summer is on sale and the aisles are now loaded down with Halloween costumes, creepy home decor, brown/beige/yellow squashes, pie scented candles and the like.

I know this happens every year, but it seems to get earlier and earlier doesn’t it? We rush through seasons like a rabbit jumping from one patch of clover to the next. I am not sure if we get the full effect of our current season or event that we are in because, much like that rabbit, while we are “chewing” we are already scouting out what comes next.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love fall. I am ready for cooler weather, fires on the back patio, less mosquitos, FOOTBALL and all of that, but I think sometimes we miss the moments that we are in because we are already looking for the next one.

Our culture is obsessed with the next big thing. The next big event. A new season.

I want to encourage you to slow down. Don’t hurry through life. Don’t wish today away by only looking for tomorrow.

Your kids are only little once. They only take first steps once. 18 years in comparison to a lifetime is NO TIME! Trust me, I am a recent new member of the “empty nester” club. Oh what I wouldn’t give for one more day when my kids were at home and we were laughing together or singing together or playing a game of Uno together or even just watching ICarly or Lost together.

Today’s opportunities are the ones that mean the most! If you miss them, you miss life.

Jesus gave His disciples (and us) a model prayer to pray. I have been studying and re-studying this prayer for going on a year now. This prayer is smack dab in the middle of a chapter about life and worry and trust and contentment. That is no accident.

The Lord’s Prayer or Model Prayer or whatever you want to call it, is a DAILY PRAYER. In Matthew 6:11 part of the prayer is “give us THIS DAY our daily bread.”

That prayer is a prayer of worship, purpose, provision, forgiveness, protection. All things we need every single day.

I say all this to say I guess what I could have just said and stopped…”Quit missing the moments you are in, because you are so acutely looking for the next thing.”

Now, I am not saying “don’t plan for the future.” Scripture tells us to be wise and prudent but I think James summed up why our prevailing attitude should be focused on today – on the moment.

James 4:14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

God spoke that verse to me this morning. I was leaving Bible study with some guys this morning about 6am just as the sun was sneaking up into the sky and there was a morning fog on the church building. By the time I arrived back to the church about 7:30am, that fog was GONE.

THAT IS OUR LIFE! Here one moment, gone the next.

The moments that God gives you today are so important. Don’t miss any of them. Or maybe try not to miss many of them!

Why are the moments so important? Without being too long-winded, let me try to frame it for you.

PEOPLE ARE IN YOUR MOMENTS. There are so many times that people are put in our path for us to love, serve, help, notice, encourage (or vice versa) and we miss them because we are so focused on the next thing.

Your wife is in your moments. Your kids are in your moments. Hurting people are in your moments. The “least of these” are in your moments. So often we miss these because we are looking another direction. Maybe at a screen (PUT THE PHONE DOWN!), maybe at a planner, maybe at our next move. Whatever it is, we miss the moment that we can never recover.

Try to be intentional about people.

Remember that story about Jesus and the woman who touched his robe? Jesus was on a healing mission according to Luke 8. He is headed to heal Jairus’ daughter and he suddenly feels power leave Him. He asks “who touched me?” His disciples are indignant. Peter says, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” Short story even shorter, Jesus looks at the woman who had reached out in faith, took a moment, healed her, blessed her and sent her on her way.

Now we aren’t Jesus, but the point is Jesus was sensitive to the moment. He was busy. He had important things in front of Him, but he realized that moment was important to that woman.

Don’t miss those moments that are filled with people who need you to stop and focus on them.

GROWTH IS IN THE MOMENTS. I get to help coach a middle school football team. I love it. We have been practicing all summer working on conditioning. It is not mandatory. Some guys have been there all summer and some guys have just now been able to show up. The guys who are new are somewhat behind in their conditioning because they have missed the moments.

One kid, though, is the perfect illustration of this point. When we started back in late June, I honestly didn’t think he was going to make it. I thought he was going to quit. He couldn’t run from here to there. He would start crying and often told me “I think I am going to die. I can’t breathe.” He did not quit. He survived those moments and is now not only keeping up but is one of the strongest competitors on the team.

You see, growth happens in the moments. If football players just go from game to game and never practice, work out or do drills, they will never improve, get stronger, get faster, learn more, learn from previous mistakes…

You have to be in the moment to grow. If we are committed to going through the daily grind then the blessing will come.

Galatians 6:9-10.   So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

SHARING JESUS HAPPENS IN THE MOMENTS. If people are in the moments, then the opportunity to share Christ with people is also in those moments. We just have to be sensitive to when the moments come.

Philip had been preaching in Samaria and then God directed him to go South toward Gaza. On the road he passed by an Ethiopian parked on the side of the road, reading the scroll of Isaiah. Now if Philip had been like me most of the time he would have flown right by this guy, but he realized the magnitude of the moment.

He goes up to the guy and says “do you understand what you are reading?”

Acts 8:34-35 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” 35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.

As believers, we have to be aware of the moments that the Holy Spirit is giving us to share the gospel of Jesus. May we not miss them!
A pastor/mentor of mine would often remind me to “walk slowly through the crowd.” In other words don’t walk by people without noticing them. If you do, then you may miss a moment to share Christ.

So slow down today. Don’t wish life away. Yeah, go ahead and decorate for fall if you want, BUT don’t miss what God has for you TODAY!

LIVE ON PURPOSE IN EACH MOMENT!

Kevin

Are You Fat or Fit?

A common struggle among most people today is maintaining a healthy physical weight. I have been dealing with this issue most of my adult life. I have been up and down on the scale for going on 30 years. Currently I am down 30 pounds and striving to get down another 50 or so.

It is tough.

I remember when I was in high school and college and I simply could eat whatever I wanted, however much of it I wanted, whenever I wanted and I did not gain weight. I was young enough and pretty active so my metabolism stayed pretty high.

BUT

Not my belly!

When I hit about 22, got married, quit moving so much I began to really gain. I was still eating whatever I wanted, however much I wanted, whenever I wanted, but most of time I was sitting still. YIKES!!

That is the pattern that developed the struggle with weight. My life became about what I was going to eat and over time, I became…FAT. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t really do anything to stop it. I kept eating and kept sitting.

Fast forward to today at 47 and I am watching my calorie intake as well as trying to be more active by walking and working out. It is tough and the process is slow, but for me to be healthy, it is where I must go. (that rhymed!)

Also not my belly!

Spiritually speaking we are much the same. When we are a new Christian we begin to get into the word and eat spiritually and that is so important. That is how we grow. But over time, if all we are doing is eating the food, attending Bible studies, church, reading the Bible and other intake means, then we will slowly become SPIRITUALLY FAT. Obese. Overweight.

Paul is talking about some issues in the Corinthian church and in 1 Corinthians 8:1 he says, “Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.”

Some of the questions that were floating around in this church were ‘can we eat meat purchased at the pagan temple market?’ ‘What if we are served meat at someone’s home that was bought at a pagan temple?’

But instead of talking about food, Paul first talked about the principles of knowledge and love. Love – not knowledge – is the goal of the believer! He says knowledge puffs up. Translate: makes you fat. Love strengthens the church. Translate: builds.

Think of it like this…the difference between “puffs up” and “strengthens” is like the difference between a bubble and a building. Paul then goes on to say if we think we know stuff, then we really know nothing.

In other words, if all we are after is knowledge, we are missing the whole point. The point of growth, the point of following Jesus, the point of Christianity is not how much we know. The point is how much what we know affects how we love. How we serve. How we share.

Knowledge is important in context. We have to eat. We need spiritual nourishment from the sermon, our study, small groups…but then we need to put those things we learn into practice in our lives. Just like your physical body, the food you eat becomes fuel for your body to burn, build and strengthen.

If we never serve, invest, love spiritually then we simply become takers. Eaters. We belly up to the buffet and wolf down lots of information and slowly but surely all we think about is our preferences. Church becomes about pleasing us. Small group meets our needs or doesn’t. If it doesn’t we just find one that does. Our study becomes ammunition to fight our fight on facebook in the political realm.

You get what I am saying right?

Knowing more of Jesus, knowing more of His Word is vital. What we eat spiritually is important. But if we only eat, we become spiritually fat. WE HAVE TO EXERCISE OUR FAITH. The knowledge must become fuel to burn, to build our lives and the lives of those around us, and ultimately, in the words of Paul, it must strengthen the church!

So are you spiritually fat or are you spiritually fit? It is never too late to start exercising! Love, serve, invest. Find your gift (if you are a believer you have one and probably more). Let what you know affect what you do. Serve the church. Serve your family. Serve your neighbor. Serve a stranger. Put all that knowledge to work in love!

Live on Purpose!