It’s one of my favorite games on the bench, Good Shot – Bad Shot, as we judge the shots of our players. In most cases, it’s pretty simple; shots are better than turnovers and we want to get at least a shot on every possession, but some shots are better than others and we want to get as many easy shots as we can. The problem, though, is that the standards for a good shot often change. The time, the score, the ability of the shooter, and the game plan can often change the standards. Our world tends to be like that, too. Standards of ethics and morality, and even our perceptions about spirituality, often change; but this week as the Christian church considers the Reformation that occurred in the Middle Ages, we can rest assured that the truth of God’s Word never changes. We may think it’s all right to alter and shape standards, but God’s truth never changes.
BASKETBALL – Taking good shots.
In nearly thirty years of coaching I’ve seen the definition of a good shot altered by innovations like the 3-point shot, shot clocks, and advanced statistics. And as I’ve coached alongside both defensive-minded coaches who maximize each possession and those who stress quick-tempo, disruptive defenses that want to score quickly, we’ve attempted to develop some Guidelines for Shot Selection – but those principles are difficult to pin down.
Edward “Skip” Newton-Kemp walked into one of our practices several years ago as one of the most athletically gifted players I had ever seen, plus he was a gym-rat. He had a spotty high school basketball experience, but had learned to play at pick-up games throughout the city. While it took a couple of seasons of trial and error with a structured offense, Skip developed into the fourth leading scoring in our program’s history and as an all-conference player led us to the NCAA tournament by routinely breaking the rules of good shot selection. Yet, if we hadn’t allowed him to do that, our team would not have been able to pull off some amazing last second wins or use him to create scoring opportunities for teammates against solid defensive teams. We had to adjust our rules to best utilize Skip! Some of those incredibly questionable shots were easier to deal with because this gym-rat was routinely in the gym practicing them. So, even though we can try define what a good shot is, competition and circumstances (like the presence of Skip) often change the rules.
LIFE – The world keeps changing, so where do you turn?
It’s no secret, we live in a world that continues to change and sparks a multitude of beliefs, moral standards, and philosophies. We tolerate and accept anything and rarely take a stand. In fact, living within a system of rules and standards is often frowned upon. Take college sports, for example. The NCAA rule book continues to grow as rule after rule is adopted, modified, and expanded. Why? Because those rules are avoided and broken routinely in the name of competition and by coaches seeking lucrative contracts by whatever means necessary. Even the very nature of “amateur” sports has become obsolete as the money and resources involved in the big business of higher education taints the very idea of amateurism.. Living by a standard seems as fruitless as trying to tell your players to take good shots. We live in a world in which government leaders, the media, leaders of education and business, and even our church leaders confuse, disguise, rationalize, distort, and hide the truth. Everyone has their own rules – in fact, that becomes a common rule – truth is whatever works best for you. That doesn’t seem right, does it? We live in a world that obviously was designed by an intelligent creator. Shouldn’t that be the source of our expectations for this life?
FAITH – Creeds remind us of the truth.
Martin Luther lived in a changing world, too. The Catholic church set the standards for most of European society. Everything was dictated by the church and its leaders, yet the world was changing and those leaders were prone to mistakes. The printing press offered the opportunity to print the Bible in a variety of languages so that every person could read scripture and understand it. The church no longer held the authority to dictate and control beliefs and practices. Luther helped all of us realize that we each are responsible for our own relationship with Jesus. It’s freely given to us and there’s nothing we can do to earn it, but the truth is that each of us can have that relationship with the One who created us and loves us. That truth is what Jesus is all about:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me..” (John 14:6)
That idea gets lost in our world today as we’re told to tolerate whatever others decide truth to be. If Christianity doesn’t work for you, we’re told, find something else. Society tells us that truth is whatever you want it to be, however truth is truth only if it’s true for all of us. As I think about Luther, though, I’m also drawn to the importance he placed on the creeds of Christianity, like the Apostles’ Creed and how we can use them to profess what we believe to be true. Even though his world and our world continue to change, we can reach all the way back through history and profess the same truth held by the early Christians. The truth of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus was true for them and it’s true for us. Unlike the rules of shot selection that can change, this truth remains the same.