Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Highways, Hedges and Basketball Courts

But Go ye into the highways and hedges and basketball courts and compel them to come! Actually the Bible encourages us in Luke 14:23 “to go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that my house may be filled.”  Moreover, Acts 1:8 goes further to say that “ you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Hence our witness for God should go beyond the church walls, and extend further than church conferences to include our communities while doing various activities. So for the past 2 years, once a month, every 4th Friday Night at 8:30pm, Excel Church hosts an event we call Friday Night Hoops at a local gymnasium in Bowie, Maryland. 

We started this ministry as an initiative for the youth of the church but it soon blossomed into an outreach to young men from around the city between the ages of 13 and 25 who for the most part- do not attend church.  Half way between our full court games, we stop playing basketball, and ask everyone to join us in a semi-circle and take a knee as we lead them in prayer and share an encouraging message from the Word of God.  Afterwards, we resume all basketball activities.  We also encourage these young men and provide godly advice on variety of subjects throughout the evening in- between games.
The participation has grown to a point that we no longer advertise.  It’s just word of mouth that they come to expect it every 4th Friday night.  I can definitely notice a change in the young men that attend.  I love this ministry because it allows us to reach a segment of individuals that never attend church.  It has grown substantially since we first began and I expect God to continue to do great things. 

As a former high school and college basketball player, basketball remains a great passion of mine.  And I consider it a blessing to be able to use the game to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. So as we endeavor to be witnesses for Jesus, let us remember to use our interests and the things we enjoy doing to go into the highways, hedges, and even basketball courts and beyond (depending on your passions) to  reach souls for Christ.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Watch Your Mouth

James 3:2 "We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check."

When I was a child, I was often corrected for the things I said. When I complained because I could not get my way, or if I said mean things about others, or if I appeared disrespectful in my tone, or if I was bold enough to talk back (before she spanked me), my mom would say with a stern voice- Watch Your Mouth. But as adults, it is very rare that we have someone actually tell us to watch our mouths.

So today I would like to make an exception and ask everyone to watch their mouths.  Be careful what you say, when you say it, how you say it, and to whom you say it.  Put simply, Watch your mouth.  Without question, the slip of the tongue can cause damaging effects. In the 1988 Republican primary for president, the Vice President at that time and candidate George Bush said these words “Read my lips, no new taxes.”  He won the 1988 election but the statement likely caused him the re-election in 1992 because he did raise taxes.  Indeed the slip of the tongue can erase a lifetime of preparation if we are not careful. 
Such was the case for Greek Tripper Jumper Voula Papachristou who was prepared to realize her life long dream of competing in the 2012 London Olympics.  But what halted her participation was not an injury or competitor.  It was her mouth through a negative tweet.  

So Not only must we watch what we say, we must be careful what we say in writing, by email, place on facebook, twitter and all other forms of social media.  If we heed the recommendations of the Bible, we can make better decisions about our words. The following scriptures give sound advice on what comes out of our mouths.

James 1:26  Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. (NIV)

Proverbs 6:2 you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. (NIV)
Psalm 34:13  keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. (NIV)

I Peter 3:10 “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.
Proverbs 21:23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

So think before you speak.  Even in situations where you are right, choose your words carefully.  And by all means:  Watch your mouth.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Get Out The Boat

Matthew 14:29-30  “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
In the prior verses, Jesus comes walking on the sea at night to his disciples who were afraid of the waves and believed Jesus to be a ghost. Yet despite the comforting of Jesus, his disciples sat bound in fear inside the boat.  In this instance, the Boat was not simply a means of transportation- it also represented a source of fear and imprisonment to the possibilities of God.  With the exception of one, the disciples missed out on a super natural experience.  The boat symbolized status quo and a false level of security.
But Peter dared to be different and at the urging of Jesus, got out of the boat and began to walk on water. When Peter stepped out of the boat, he made a leap of faith by responding to God’s call.  Like Peter, many of us need to get out of the boat that restricts us from obtaining our dreams in God. Although we began life with accomplishing our goals of sailing to the other side of endless possibilities, far too often many are held back in the boat of do nothing and indecision caused by fear and unbelief.  Would have, should have, could have are phrases that we have come to embrace as opportunities have passed us by.

So get out the boat of underachievement and playing it safe.  Get out the boat of being like the crowd.  Get out the boat of fear and indecisiveness. Get out the boat of mediocrity. Get out the boat of settling for less than God's best for you. Respond to the Lord’s call to walk on water toward your blessing and keep your eyes on God.  Get out the boat like Peter, walk on water and take that step of faith.  The world is waiting on your invention, your book, your business, your production, your movie, or your promotion.  Don't be afraid.  Trust in God, and Get out of the boat.