A Note from the Pastor – The Basics

A Lenten Challenge

College basketball’s season is approaching March Madness, when everyone’s team is hoping to make it to the tournament and Final 4. My team, UCLA, won 10 championships in 11 years. Coach Wooden was a Christian man whose temperament and style would seem utterly out of step with today’s flamboyant coaches and players. He never lost his cool on the sidelines. He wouldn’t allow his players to dunk, dribble between their legs or show disrespect to the opponents. 

The first half hour of the first practice every year was teaching the players how to put on a sock the right way. New recruits would roll their eyes, “I’m at the biggest college program and they are teaching me how to out on socks?” Mastering the basics led to a championship pedigree. One year, when freshmen were not allowed to play with the varsity, Wooden’s freshmen team, including Lew Alcindor, was regularly beating his two-time championship team!

Coach Wooden emphasized discipline so that the team was always in control, which in the heat of a tight game could make the difference between winning and losing. During national championship games his team was merely running practice drills!

I am big on mastering the basics, like reading the Bible and having a prayer life. These two practices are like working out and dieting; if you do one without the others your results are so-so. When both are employed results come immediately.

When we stay close to Jesus in His scriptures, He can guide us not merely in the principles of right and wrong, but in enjoying His Spirit in every situation. The same is with prayer: as we lay out thoughts before Him, we will acquire clarity and see God arranging our circumstances. But there is another element to prayer: when we refrain from doing all the talking, ask His direction and listen for His voice, we will experience a unique, deep heart-to-heart relationship with the Lord. This is the fruit of cultivating time in His presence.

We also have one other basic to follow: Love God and love His people. On our busy to-do lists, if the overriding principle is to love God by loving His people (everyone who crosses our path) we will be mastering the basics and winning the biggest championship—souls.

-Rev Dr William Lewis