Monthly Archives: May 2014

NBA Playoffs and Life Lessons

I’m a big sports fan. I always have been. I played sports all the way through high school and loved every second. I’ve always been a competitor and put my heart into all I did. Even now as a pastor, I put my heart into all I do and tend to be known for my passion.

The NBA playoffs are in full swing and my team since childhood, the San Antonio Spurs, are competing once again for the western conference finals. There has not been a professional sports team as successful as the San Antonio Spurs in quite some time…they have been a winning machine for nearly two decades.

So, here they are battling against one of the up and coming teams in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder. I happen to pastor right outside OKC, so needless to say, I’m surrounded by Thunder fans…not a great place for a Spurs fan I might add :-). But, this series has been a battle for sure.

As I write this, the series is locked at 2-2…with game 5 in a best of 7 series happening in San Antonio on Thursday night, May 29th. It is likely that whoever wins game 5 will win the series…so, game 5 is of utmost importance to say the least. But, as this series has rolled along, I have learned a few things. I’ve always learned a lot from sports and continue to do so, even in this series between the Spurs and the Thunder. So, here are 5 quick life lessons I have picked up on so far:

1. Starting well is important, but finishing well is more important.

The Spurs jumped out to a 2-0 commanding lead, but have let the Thunder slip back in the series. The Spurs started well, but will they finish well? Just like in life…finishing well is one of the most important things you can do. As the Apostle Paul said,”I have fought the fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished the race…” All believers run the race of faith to finish well.

2. Adversity will either make you drop out or rise up!

The Thunder have risen to the occasion. They faced must win games in games 3 and 4, and have absolutely risen up in spite of being in a difficult situation. They got blown out in game 2 by 35 points, but showed up in game 3 like game 2 never happened. In life, the tough times reveal what we are made of…and we either drop out or rise up. The Spurs are now in a must win situation…will they rise up or drop out? We shall see on Thursday. As someone once said, “Life is a storm…you will bask in the sunlight one moment, or be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.” Adversity is a great revealer of character. The Spurs may not win, but will they compete in spite of adversity. Oh how I hope they do :-). James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

3. When you win or lose, you should always have class.

Say what you want about the Spurs, but when they win by 35 or lose by 20, they stay the same. Their character shines through. In sports, just like in life, there will be ups and downs. Don’t make too much of the highs or the lows…just stay even…be consistent. We can all ride the wave of circumstances, but we have to remember that some days we will have victory and other days defeat and we must not let either dictate our character. We need to be classy and steady in the ups and downs of life.

4. There is a fine line between passion and arrogance.

I get it, to make it to the NBA, you have to have a certain amount of confidence…ego, if you will. BUT…arrogance and passion are not the same thing. Any one who knows me knows I am not a Russell Westbrook fan. I concede the fact that he is good…very good. He is always the most athletic player on the court, but I struggle with his responses during the game. The dancing, show boating, starring down after dunks, etc. Some people love that, but I hate it. I love passion, but hate when it bleeds into arrogance. In life, we should put our whole hearts into what we do, but we always need to remember, it’s not about us…it’s never about one individual person. We should put Jesus Christ first in our life and then others before ourselves. So, on the basketball court, if you are dominating…stay passionate, but don’t let it drift into arrogance…the same goes in life.

5. Life is full of difficult people, and how we deal with them reveals a lot about our own character.

This last point is “fan” related. Every team has fans. In this series there are Spurs fans and Thunder fans…and there are knuckleheads on both sides. All fans tend to see things one-sided. They will all say they don’t, but they do. I have watched both Spurs and Thunder fans criticize refs, coaches, players, and each other. I admit, I get too wrapped up in it all at times, just like anyone else. But…I do strive to be a generous fan. I am loyal and try not to ever make excuses for the team I cheer for (even though I slip up at times). I also try and just cheer for my team without degrading and bad mouthing the other team. I try and show respect for the other team as well. I also try and respect the fans of the other team. But, no matter how hard I try, and I fall short as well, there are always difficult people to deal with on the other side. There are the antagonizers, the agitators, the critics, the disrespectful, the hateful, the irrational, and on and on. I have learned it is best to try and take the high road with most of these people because it’s useless to try and argue with them because it never leads anywhere beneficial.

The same goes in life. There will always be people who question your motives, people who won’t listen, people who make hasty generalizations, people who are not realistic, people who say hateful things, and on and on. How we respond to difficult people reveals more about us than it does about them. As the Proverb writer says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” When dealing with difficult people, remember…don’t throw gas on the fire…just kill it with kindness. You may be kind and they still judge you or question you…it doesn’t matter, just keep being kind. That’s the best you can do with difficult people.

And guess what, at the end of the day, none of this basketball stuff really matters. The NBA playoffs is a temporal thing that does not matter eternally…but we can still learn some great life lessons from such things and I hope to always keep growing as a person, but more importantly as a Christian. So, in sports or in life, let’s keep growing to be who God wants us to be…and oh ya, “GO SPURS GO!”

Memorial Day

Since September 1st, 2013 (the day Trey went to be with the Lord) it is interesting how I approach special occasion days. Every special day we set aside, for whatever reason, carries a new weight. I tend to reflect more and think about things a little more deeply, rather than just let the holiday come and go. In the past, although there were definitely special times I had during the holidays, I just don’t feel I was reflective enough or intentional with my time. That’s all changed now. I’m definitely trying to make the most of my time.

Today is Memorial Day and I am ever mindful of men and women who have given their lives for our country. I think of women who have had to live without their husband, men without their wives, children without their dad or mom, and on and on…and my heart grieves for those families. This particular day reminds me that our world is so broken. We fight and defend and have wars because we are not a world at peace. Our world is selfish and sinful and will never be right until the rightful King, Jesus Christ, comes back to set it all straight. With every death, heartache, and painful experience, let us remember that there is tremendous hope because of Christ. My prayer is that all the heartbroken people today will give their burdens to Jesus and allow Him to comfort their weary souls.

My grandfather and Emily’s grandfather both served our country well. They are both in the presence of Jesus now and I am grateful for that. I smile thinking of my son getting to know both of his great grand fathers in the present heaven. I can only imagine what they are all experiencing in the presence of Jesus Christ.

My heart is heavy today, but I’m asking the Lord for help. Help to reflect without falling into despair. Help to remember without losing hope. Help to grieve with joy. And my God is faithful and I know He will be strong in my weakness.

Today, remember this Christians:
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (Philippians 3:20-21).”

Together

My wife is such a gift to me…and as I think about her and our marriage, I felt compelled to share the words to the song Together by Stephen Curtis Chapman.

When Emily and I were married, neither of us had any idea that we’d be where we are today and it’s only by the grace of God we are still standing. Emily stole my heart and still steals it every day. I love her more than I could ever possibly say. I’m so thankful that we are “together”…no matter what :-)

Together – by: Stephen Curtis Chapman

Here we stand, here we are
With all our wounds and battle scars
From all the storms and all the wars we’ve weathered together
We had no way of knowing when
We started way back there and then
How the road would twist and turn and bend
We just knew we belonged together

And if it wasn’t for God’s mercy and His grace
There’s no way we would be standing in this place
But because He has been faithful
Every step along the way
Here we are together

We’ve climbed up mountains higher than
Were ever in our hopes and plans
We’ve held onto each other’s hands
Watched miracles unfold together
And we’ve crawled on our hands and knees
Through valleys cold and dark and deep
Sometimes not even sure if we could make it out alive together

And if it wasn’t for God’s mercy and His grace
There’s no way we would be standing in this place
But because He has been faithful
Every step along the way
Here we are together, together

The Cure for a Wounded Heart

The only cure for a wounded heart is the grace of Jesus Christ! For those, like me, who live daily with emotional pain, breathe in His grace and remember He has and will deliver you.

Breathe this in today:
“He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again (2 Corinthians 1:10).”

Even though “life is less sweet, death is less bitter, and heaven is more real today,” because of Jesus, ALL THINGS WILL BE NEW ONE DAY!!!

Until then…our hope in Him carries us!

Running for a Cure

For those wanting to help me run for pediatric cancer research in the Chicago Marathon in October, you can send a financial gift to:

Trey Freeman Medical Fund
P.O. Box 325
Newcastle, OK 73065

Or, you can donate online at:

http://enduretocure.org/team/athletes/jeremy-freeman/

Finish Like Trey

I love this picture of me finishing the OKC half marathon! This exactly how I wanted to finish…giving my all like Trey! I closed my eyes, thought of my son, and crossed the line! #finishlikeTrey

20140504-054550.jpg

Hurt and the Healer

I’m sure you’ve heard this song, but these lyrics are my life:

The Hurt and the Healer
By: Mercy Me

Why?
The question that is never far away
The healing doesn’t come from being explained
Jesus please don’t let this go in vain
You’re all I have
All that remains

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

Breathe
Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

It’s the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all our scars are understood
When mercy takes it’s rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say “It’s over now”

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take this heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When The hurt and the healer collide

[x2:]
Jesus come and break my fear
Wake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here
When the hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Wake my heart and take my tears
And find Your glory even here

Mr. Unreliable!

If there is anything I have learned in the short time I have been a pastor, it’s that leadership is hard. As a leader you often get praise you don’t deserve, as well as criticism you don’t deserve. There are incredible blessings and incredible challenges when you are the leader. Whether it be in your business, church, school, sports team, etc…when you are the leader you will deal with some fair and unfair things.

The article in the Daily Oklahoman illustrates my point perfectly. Kevin Durant is one of the best, if not the best, players in the NBA. He will most likely receive the coveted MVP award in just a few short weeks. He has led in scoring, carried the Thunder on his back when injuries plagued the team, been a great example of generosity to Oklahoma through tornado recovery, spoken publicly about his faith, and on and on. So…what happens when he struggles a little bit in a tough series, he gets called “Mr. Unreliable.” This is not the time to criticize the leader, this is the time to lift him up!!! When the leader struggles, that’s when he needs encouragement!!! Yes, it’s basketball and yes, it doesn’t matter eternally…but the principles need to be remembered. When your boss struggles, build him up! When you superintendent struggles, build him up! When your teacher struggles, build him up! When your captain struggles, build him up! When your pastor struggles, build him up! And on and on!!!

Yes, strong leaders have to rise up regardless of criticism…that just comes with the territory, but people need to remember that leaders are people too, and when they are down, don’t kick them, lift them up!!!

And all this is coming from a Spurs fan…so you know it’s gotta be right? LOL! Seriously, Kevin Durant might score 10 tonight and play horrible…he might score 50 and rock the house…but regardless of his performance, remember what he has done this season and pick him up! He’s earned it!!!

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