Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Basketball to the glory of God

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The last few weeks have been unusually busy times for me but this time of year typically brings extra responsibilities to my schedule due to our family's involvement with homeschool basketball.

When I grew up sports became a god to me. I enjoyed playing, but unfortunately my love for the game became way too important. Friday Night Lights had some very familiar scenes in it and brought back many memories--some pleasant and some painful--from my Texas high school football days. Since I grew up at a time and place where racial integration was forced in badly-handled ways, Remember the Titans also rang some familiar bells in my memory.

My unbalanced love for sports became so obsessive that I actually swore off all participation in any sport for nearly two years during college. I wouldn't even play in pick up games. That sports-fast helped me to regain a better perspective on life and also caused me to realize how easy it is to let something good become something bad. And when the good becomes bad it is the worst.

When Donna and I married I resolved not to let my kids fall into that same trap of making any sport an idol. To that end, our family never went to ball games, or watched games, or talked about ball games. All that began to change when my oldest girl turned twelve. A new family joined our church and their children knew all about sports. One day my eldest child came away from a conversation with her new friends and asked me to explain the difference between a football and a basketball. It was then that I knew I had gone overboard! It dawned on me that I was culturally handicapping my kids to the degree that they could not even have a meaningful conversation about basic American athletic activities.

The fruit of my repentance came in the form of signing up my two oldest girls for the local homeschool girls basketball team (that is a story in itself!). In a very unexpected, yet providential turn of events, I wound up becoming the coach of that team the next year and the rest is...well let's just say that it has been a fun ride. For the last nine years I have had the privilege of coaching the Lee County Homeschoolers Lady Ambassador basketball team.

The philosophy that governs our team is summed up in our team motto: Basketball to the glory of God. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31,
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Basketball is found in this verse in those words, "whatever you do." In other words, if you are going to do it, you better learn to do it to the glory of God. If it can't be done to God's glory, then you better not do it. I have tried to teach this to the girls by helping them to realize that the only way to play basketball to God's glory is to keep it in proper perspective. Specifically, we must remember that it is just a game, and games make very poor gods! Therefore it is less important than school, than church and than family. It is certainly less important than Christ and in fact, the reason that we even have the opportunity to enjoy basketball is because of God's goodness to us in Christ. How utterly foolish it would be, then, to take a gift of God's goodness and turn it into an idol that competes with God Himself! To value the gift more than the giver!

Yet, that is our tendency, isn't it? God gives us the good gift of a wife, or children, or a job, or health or anything, and we start loving the gift more than the Giver and even use our devotion to the gift as excuses to disobey the Giver. Isn't this Paul's explanation of how our sin works in Romans 1? We "exchange the truth of God for the lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator."

To fight against that sinful tendency I remind our girls that, contrary to the T-shirts, basketball is not life, Christ is. Basketball is just a game, but it is a great game! And by keeping it in perspective, we are free to give our very best efforts to playing it as well as we can. One reason that I enjoy sports so much is that they can teach you so much about life. Winning and losing. Adversity. Injustice. Success. Failure. Disappointment. Goals set, achieved, and not quite met. Tension. Pressure. Interdependence. Responsibility. All of these life experiences can be found in a single game of basketball. How we respond to them reveals what is inside our hearts, and in that way sports can be a help in sanctification.

Tonight we arrived at Haines City, Florida for the Florida Christian Athletic Association state basketball tournament. The Lady Ambassadors have been fortunate enough to win our regional championship and compete in the tournament again this year. Tomorrow we face Miami Lakes Christian School, a team we have grown to know and love over the last few years. Since only 8 teams are invited to the tournament, a win in the first round would put us into the semi-finals.

If time allows, I will post the results of our efforts tomorrow night. As the NCAA big dance is starting all over the country (with my Texas Aggies right in the thick of things for a change!), our little dance...uh, I mean, "party," begins tomorrow in central Florida.

Here is a website that tells a little about our team.


martyduren said...

I thought you kinda looked like Hubie Brown...

Brian Hamrick said...

Will the finals be on the Sunshine Network?

Tom, I know you're having a blast... thanks for the great post.

Forest A said...

"Yet, that is our tendency, isn't it? God gives us the good gift of a wife, or children, or a job, or health or anything, and we start loving the gift more than the Giver and even use our devotion to the gift as excuses to disobey the Giver." - OUCH!

- Thank-you

GUNNY said...

After the meltdown of the Little Mavericks tonight, I need the Ags to pick me up tomorrow.

P.S. Phil Jackson's got nothing on you, Coach!

Scott said...


Hubie Brown ! You are truly a Ga boy remembering that Ex Hawks coach. You probably will tell me that you had lunch with Gordon Solie( Ga Championship Wrestling announcer).I think Tom favors Terry Funk more than Hubie.


I hope the girls have a great time and win a championship while your having fun. Texas A&M will be tough but I'm picking a young North Carolina team to win it all. They did beat Ohio State earlier in the year. Texas scares me a little as a tough seed in North Carolina 's bracket.
I hate to admit this but I will come clean: My wife says that I'm addicted to Nascar. I have a stand up Jeff Gordon display in my office at home staring at me as I type. Ginger says that Jeff Gordon and the Nascar thing has become an idol so I can relate to your blog. What even shocks me is that I have Nascar almost equal to College football( Auburn Tigers) . Why did you have to write this blog and nail me with the Nascar race being in Atlanta this weekend ? I was planning on cutting my sermon shorter this week. Kidding ! Thanks for the post.

Beau said...

Gig'em, Tom.

Class of '97, btw.

scripturesearcher said...

A great testimony, beloved doctor! It is mine, too!

It takes time for several to
realize what you and I have
learned before we became old
men! (Proverb 17:22)

Surely ATHLETICS and SPORTS is one of the major IDOLS of many - even some who go to church services on a more or less regular basis!

Doug said...

I am, right now, watching my Maryland Terrapins in the big dance to the glory of God. I love March!!!

Tom said...


Hubie Brown???


Terry Funk???

Haven't you guys ever seen a picture of Pat Riley? :-)

Gig em, Beau, Class of 79

Scott said...


I love you brother but you don't have the slicked back hair that Pat Riley has. As far as your coaching is concerned: If you win at least three Homeschool championships then Marty and I may consider you into the coaching Hall of Fame. However, I will put you on the level of a Roy Williams( North Carolina Coach level) and that is something to brag on !

NVLonghorn said...

Tom, thanks for the great post. I confess that the altar I bow before is burnt orange. Can we still have fellowship? :)

Thanks again

Scott said...


I'm sorry that you don't know Terry Funk( You know the Funk brothers) one of wrestlings greatest Tag Teams ever. Terry Funk was a brawler and a Texan !
Hubie Brown was once the Atlanta Hawks coach.

Tom said...


Yes we can still have fellowship, but it will sure be easier if my Aggies whup up on your Longhorns! :-)