This past Saturday morning when I woke up I checked my email as I do most Saturdays. I received an email from a person who lives in the neighborhood just north of the school I work at. The note asked why we didn’t take more pride in our school’s appearance. He stated that he walks daily along 7th Avenue and there is a lot of garbage that blows onto our grass, landscaping and retention area and we should do a better job of keeping it cleaned up.
My first reaction was, really, this is what I get to wake up to on Saturday morning? Then I instantly went into defensive mode. Doesn’t he see how much we have improved our campus over the last five years? Plus, it isn’t even our garbage! It blows from across the street or off the street onto our property and now I have a complaint about us not cleaning up other people’s trash.
Then I realized how I so clearly displayed the attitude one often takes when confronted with one's own sin. “It’s not my fault. I am better than the other person. Well if that person hadn’t provoked me I wouldn’t have reacted like that; they had it coming. It’s not my problem.”
I am glad I didn’t respond to the email in that moment of frustration. After telling myself to calm down about it, I could look a little more clearly at what he was saying. Whether we like it or not, sometimes we have trash in our front yard. We have to deal with it. The way I dealt with this on Saturday was, along with help of another person, to pick up all the trash along 7th Avenue.
As far as the sin we have to deal with, God gives us clear direction on how to deal with that. 1 John 1:8 tells us, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
It’s hard to hear that we are wrong. Our reaction is often to be defensive; at least I know my reaction can be that way. Thankfully God gives us a very clear path and as we confess what we did wrong, He cleans up the trash for us and takes all those sins away.
We have an amazing God who loves us and makes things clean.
Does anyone else ever get caught in this trap, or is it just me? I know what I want to do, but somehow I don’t seem to get it done. There are things I want to avoid, obstacles that have gotten in my way in the past and I am determined to avoid these same obstacles, only to find myself tripping over them again. Then I reread these words from Romans:
“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”
Romans 7:18-20 NLT
All of us have this sin problem. No matter how hard we try, we can’t avoid it. There is the reality that we still possess a sinful nature and we will continue to stumble; however, this doesn’t mean we give up the fight and give in to all of our sinful desires.
This is where God’s grace kicks in. He forgives us even when we struggle with that same obstacle right in front of us. The sinful nature won’t be with us forever. When we get to heaven with God we get to leave that part behind. What an amazing thing that will be; freedom from the weight of our sinful nature pulling us down each day.
In the meantime, continue to fight the good fight with God’s help. Then when you stumble, feel the grace and forgiveness God wants to freely pour out to us. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith; and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; not by works, so no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.
For the past 25 years I have been coaching high school basketball. I started out as an Assistant Junior Varsity Coach and then became an Assistant Varsity Coach. From there I went on to coach my own team starting at the freshman level, working up to JV and then the last 13 years was a Varsity coach.
When I look back at it, I have been coaching for over half of my life; however, this has come to an end.
A couple weeks ago I told my High School basketball team and their parents that this was my last year of coaching. It is still a little hard to comprehend because I have been doing it for so long. I am going to miss it tremendously, but as my responsibilities as an administrator continue to grow it has reached the time to hang up the clipboard.
I think there are some things that we count on to never change. Before I coached I played college basketball for four years, before that, high school and before that grade school basketball. I have been part of a team for the last 37 years. The last time I wasn’t part of a team I was nine years old.
For me there was the constant that as October turned to November basketball practice would begin and we would start a new season. That will no longer be the case. I am uncomfortable with the change and know there will be times I won’t like it.
There is one thing we can count on that never changes. Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Even the things in our lives that we think will never end, or we try to hold on to, will eventually come to an end. But Jesus will always be the same.
He will love us the same, He will forgive us the same, He will celebrate the good and comfort us in the hard times.
When the calendar turns to winter next year there will be times I wish I was still coaching and that it didn’t have to change. But I also rest assured in knowing that Jesus is the same for me whether I am coaching or not and He truly will never change.
I think we all have some tasks within our jobs or chores around the house we would rather not do. Sometimes we put on a good face and attack these with a great attitude. Other times we get irritated, frustrated or possibly even mad about having to do this. One of the things I struggle with sometimes is cleaning out the bleachers.
After home basketball games, at the High School where I coach and work, I take the time to try to clean up the bleachers or at least get as many of the big items as I can and throw them in the garbage. After a late game Friday night I decided to do it Saturday before people started arriving for the games that day. I think I hit the point of frustration when I found a dirty diaper left in the bleachers. I thought to myself, why can’t people clean up after themselves?
Later that weekend I thought about how my frustration was getting the better of me in this instance. The thought of "why can’t people clean up after themselves" just kept running through my head. That’s when I knew I was going to write about these thoughts. My thoughts led me to the reality that people can’t clean up after themselves. None of us can. We have a sin problem that no matter how hard we try we can’t clean-up for ourselves.
The amazing thing is Jesus never said He wouldn’t clean-up for us, he never got frustrated with the task, and he showed us how we are supposed to serve others in this way. Not only did Jesus clean-up our sin, he also did some cleaning that shouldn’t have been his responsibility.
In John 13 we read how Jesus cleaned His disciple’s feet. This was the job of a servant, but our Lord and King ended up on His knees doing the clean-up. If Jesus can do this for me, cleaning up the bleachers doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
I love that I am in a place where I’m constantly learning. Every Tuesday and Thursday at the High School where I work, we have chapel, and there always seems to be at least one thing I learn that’s new, or at the very least causes me to think differently about my faith.
This morning our Pastor, Jamie, shared a message about how God takes what is crooked and straightens it. We don’t need to come to God in perfect shape; we just need to come to Him. He will take care of changing us and fixing us.
Pastor Jamie often reminds us that God will never leave us alone. This also means He will never leave us alone. You can read this sentence two different ways, depending on the emphasis. God never leaves us, so we are comforted that He is always there, the common way in which we think of him never leaving us alone.
The other way to read that sentence is to imagine a person who won’t leave you alone…..that person who won’t stop calling or texting, or maybe when you were growing up that younger sibling who just kept nagging you because they wanted to always be with you. You see, this is how God is too. He cares about us so much that He won’t leave us alone.
He is going to keep working on each of us, persistently and unrelentingly, until He can mold us into the person He wants us to be. Not only will we never be alone, but God will never leave us alone. He has work to do on us and His love is too great to just leave us as we are.
1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind can imagine what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
I am thankful for a God who won’t leave me alone, even when I think I want Him to.
Are you familiar with 1 Corinthians 13? It is often referred to as the love chapter in the Bible. It lays out what it truly means to love someone else and shows us how God’s love is perfect for us. I find myself thinking a lot about this chapter in the Bible as I look forward to the rest of 2018. You see, just before Christmas my daughter got engaged and is planning a fall wedding. Then this past Saturday my son Aaron got engaged. He is jumping ahead of his sister and is getting married in July. At the moment I have all three of my children engaged to be married with weddings coming up in February, July and October of 2018!
As I look at the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13, I recognize my own shortcomings in loving others. As exciting as our house is at the moment with wedding plans being the constant topic of conversation, I know that after all the weddings are over the real work begins in their marriages.
Verse 4 tells us, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” I hope I have taught my children patience and kindness, but I know there will be times when they fail in those areas, just like their dad did/does.
One thing we do know is that this description of love is the description of God’s perfect love for us. So whether we are in a crazy time of planning three weddings or in a time when life has knocked us down, we know God’s love for us is perfect. We can trust in this love every day. We can take comfort in knowing His love is true and follows what He says in verse 8, “Love never fails.”
Monday was a very strange evening in my house. I got home from basketball practice at about 6:00 pm and my daughter and wife were sitting in the kitchen talking. As I walked in my daughter exclaimed, “Dad, you’re home; wait, everyone is home at the same time!”
As a parent of three adult children, all living at home, yet all with different schedules, this rarely happens. When I told her I was supposed to head out to scout a basketball game she asked me to please stay home. Knowing how rare these occasions are I agreed. That night for the first time in months the five of us sat at the dining room table and had dinner together.
I honestly can’t remember the last time this happened. We ate and talked and laughed and talked some more. There was nothing special about it. It was just another Monday night. We used to sit for dinner together as a family all the time. But because lives have changed, it was a special night in that it was an ordinary family dinner. At the risk of sounding nostalgic, I am going to remember that evening for a long time.
God gives us family for a reason. He wants us to be around others and feel this closeness with our family. Psalm 68:6 tells us, “God sets the lonely in families.” One thing we always say in the High School I work at is "we are a family." We want every student to feel like they are a part of this family and that they always have a home here.
I pray we all remember we have a loving Father who calls us His children as we are a part of His family.
Last Friday my daughter stopped by my office to pick up something. While talking with her, she asked if I heard what she was doing for the weekend. My stress level immediately went up. When I told her I hadn't heard, she gave me a two minute description of a "Faith Trip" she and three of her friends were taking for the weekend.
The four of them were going to fly to San Francisco for the weekend and try to do ministry for people they ran into. I thought it sounded like a great adventure. Then she told me they didn't know where they would stay but they knew God would provide.
When she returned from her trip she told me all about it. They decided to take $10 among them and no credit cards. They looked for people to help them and people they could help. They spoke and prayed with homeless people. Others gave them food and they ate some and passed some on to others more in need. People provided transportation and they helped someone move out of their apartment.
They experienced what it was like to be tired and hungry and homeless. They also experienced what it was like to trust God and see him provide in very real ways.
At one point she said they were all really hungry and they all wanted some chicken so they prayed God would provide some chicken for them to eat. A little later they ran into a homeless person who had nothing. After asking what they could do to help, she said she would just want something to eat from the Mexican restaurant.
They used their only money to buy her a burrito. The owner of the restaurant asked them what they were doing. When they shared, she asked them to come back when they were done helping her. The owner had chicken burritos waiting for all four of them on their return.
I'm not sure when it happened, but at some point my heroes have become my children. I look at some of the things they do and the way they trust God and I am so thankful for their faith and trust in Him.
I also know a big reason they have the faith they have is because of the many teachers they had and the foundation that was built through their time in high school.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us "Train up a child in the way he should go even when he is old he will not depart from it." Sometimes, that training is more than we as parents can sometimes provide on our own.
Sometimes, it takes a village.
Bob Koehne, husband to Mia, is an educator, coach, mentor and administrator with a love for Jesus and a passion to see lives impacted for Christ through Christian education. These are just some of his writings.
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