Practicing for Heaven’s Game

In May of 2002, NBA Superstar Alan Iverson sat down before Press members and unleashed a rant that has become one of the most famous press conference tirades in American Sports history.

Iverson was upset at his coach, Larry Brown, for contending that Iverson’s missing practice and practice habits may have cost his team another final’s appearance.

Iverson could hardly believe he was having to answer questions about practice, saying, “I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talking about practice. I mean, listen, we’re talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talking about practice.”  

In a span of two minutes, Iverson would say the word “practice” more than twenty times!  NBA players reacted mostly with laughter and mimics of the interview.  They know how tremendously important practice is for the successful athlete.  Their dads probably pushed them saying, “Practice makes perfect!”

Listen to the contrasting sound of two 1992 “Dream Team” members.

Michael Jordan’s teammates say his practice habits were intense.  It was like they had a game instead of a practice.  Jordan says, “Every day in practice is like a competition – so when the game comes it’s nothing that I haven’t already practiced.  It’s a routine.  Whatever happens in the game, okay, I’ve done this before.”

Larry Bird says, “I don’t know if I practiced more than anybody, but I sure practiced enough.  I would still wonder if somebody, somewhere, was practicing more than me.”  He continues, “Push yourself again and again.  Don’t give an inch until the final buzzer sounds.”

Practice is even more important for the Christian.  Eternity’s game is coming. We are simply in practice now.  Switching analogies, we are in the dress rehearsal now.  One day, if well prepared, we will be ushered onto the stage and the curtain will open for the big play.

Our practice includes reading God’s word, living it out in daily life, praying to God, developing Christ-likeness and serving others.  We not only accept it when our Heavenly Coach corrects us and shows us our flaws, we covet such a coach. We say…

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me, and know my anxieties;

And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting”

(Psalm 139:23-24)

We practice to hone our knowledge and skill (2 Pet. 3:18)  We practice to learn how to defeat our opponent – not being ignorant of his game (2 Cor. 2:11).  We practice to become spiritually fit for heaven (1 John 3:7).  We practice to build spiritual muscle and stamina so that we are still going strong in the final quarter (Phil. 3:12).  One of the strongest Christians ever said it this way…“Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Tim. 4:15).  That sounds a little like Jordan and Bird.

The truth is, heaven’s eternal game is for those who love the game so much they begin practicing it now.  They love to study and pray and sing and serve.  They love seeing themselves becoming like the Master player Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).  Those who never practice, never show great desire, and never show any progress will not be on Heaven’s Dream Team.

For now the gym is open.  The roster is not settled.  Opportunity is there for all. Will you practice today?  It’s what all of God’s franchise players do.  Watch today’s ESPN video.  Think about it and have a blessed day.

 — Jeff May


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Winning the Triple Crown

American Pharoah.  If you have followed sports and national news recently, you know the story.  Misspelled though his name may be, the thoroughbred is horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.  What an amazing feat by a marvelous creature.  But it pales somewhat when I recall another horse that won that Triple Crown back in 1973.  His name was Secretariat.

I am old enough to remember Secretariat well.  He won all three races — The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and the Belmont — in record times that still stand today.  In his victory in the Belmont, he led by 1/16 of a mile coming down the backstretch and finished an amazing 31 lengths ahead of his nearest competitor.  But his most impressive run may have been in the Kentucky Derby that year.


In his Derby effort, Secretariat broke slow out of the gate, but still ran the first quarter mile of the race in a respectable 2515 seconds.  The second quarter mile was faster at 24 seconds.  The third quarter mile went by in 2345 – he was still accelerating. The fourth quarter mile was faster still at 2325 seconds.  And the last quarter mile was run at the blistering pace of 23 seconds flat.  He was still accelerating as he crossed the finish line!!!

I pray for a heart like Secretariat’s to finish strong in the spiritual race that ends at the throne of God.  To be able to run harder at the end than at the beginning would be such a joy. And like the great apostle Paul, my hope is to “finish my race with joy” (Acts 20:24).  Fairly late in Paul’s life he wrote, “I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven” (Phil 3:14, CEV).

No one knows exactly how far along they are in their race.  But for me, I am certain that I am near the final turn — perhaps even now on the backstretch.  With every stride, a voice within seems to say, “Run harder!”  Let the one who holds my bridle use the whip as often as He needs to keep me moving faster and faster.  “I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart” (Psalm 119:132).

“Run harder!”  Three crowns await – a heavenly triple crown!

  • The crown of glory. “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).
  • The crown of life. “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
  • The crown of righteousness. “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

 “You know that many runners enter a race,

and only one of them wins the prize.

So run to win!

Athletes work hard to win a crown that cannot last,

but we do it for a crown that will last forever.”

(1 Corinthians 9:24-25, CEV)

As you contemplate running your race, you might enjoy watching Secretariat in his 1973 efforts in the Belmont and Kentucky Derby.  Run hard.  Finish with joy!

– Steve Klein

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Camping Toward Canaan’s Happy Land

I love camping…well, sort of. I love the great outdoors, the sights and sounds of nature, and a good campfire for roasting hot dog wieners and melting down some marshmallows for s’mores! And I love that very first night when I crawl into my tent.

But within a little while it comes back to me that because I’m now past fifty years old, I just don’t handle sleeping on the ground very well. An air mattress sure helps these old bones if I have one. But even at that, after several nights, I’m weary, ready to pack up the tent, and go home.

Did you know the Bible calls your body a tent?  Your body is not the real you. The real you is a spirit, made in the image of God (James 3:9; Gen. 1:27) and made for an eternal home with God.  And for now, the real you is simply camping on the low plains of this earth.  The summit is ahead for the Christian.

One day, any day, the real you will move out of the tent and return into the keeping of God, the Father of spirits (Hebrews 12:9), Who first breathed into you the breath of life (Genesis 1:7). The tent, this ole body, will return to the dust from whence it came (Ecclesiastes 12:7).  The next destination for the real you depends on the direction your tent has been pitched – a life lived for God (heaven) or a life lived for self (hell).  The Bible story of Abraham and Lot shows us that it really does matter in which direction you pitch your tent.  Compare the two when you can (Genesis 12:8; 13:12).  Even though a righteous man, Lot’s tent was aimed toward much grief, while Abraham stayed more focused on “the city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

Peter used this “tent” metaphor when he neared the end of his life.

“Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent,

to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly,

I must put off my tent, just as the Lord Jesus Christ showed me.”

(2 Peter 1:13-14)

It will be a great day when the Christian “breaks camp.”  The spirit will break free from the confines and limitations of the earthly body.  We yearn for the new tent, the one specially suited for heaven’s eternity.  The new tent (the new body to which our spirit returns) never has leaks, dry rots, mildews or becomes totally unusable.  It is incorruptible, glorious, spiritual, and raised with great power (1 Cor. 15:44).

“For we who are in this tent groan,

earnestly desiring to be clothed with

our habitation which is from heaven.”

(2 Corinthians 5:2)

Remember, you don’t have to be post-fifty for the spirit to break camp.  It can happen at any time, hence the need to always be ready (James 4:13-14).  Won’t that be a wonderful day if you awaken with a new tent in Canaan’s happy land?  Shouldn’t you pitch your tent in that direction now?

 – Jeff May

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Face to Face

I wanted to see him so much.  I couldn’t remember when I’d seen him last.  To be honest, I literally didn’t remember seeing him before at all.  But I knew I had.  The name “grandpa” belonged to someone very special.  I knew that.

Our family had traveled hundreds miles – for what seemed like a thousand years to a little boy – to finally arrive at grandpa and grandma’s house.  I was so excited!  But when we arrived, grandpa was taking his nap – asleep in the sunroom!  I tiptoed in and waited.  Waited for him to wake up.  And then finally, after minutes that seemed like hours, he did.  And I saw his face, and felt a happiness I’ve seldom ever felt since.  Even now, so many decades later, after memories of him have faded and seeped through my conscious mind into a golden haze, and although I’ve met a lot of wonderful people, few meetings can compare with the first time I remember seeing him face to face.

The way the Bible describes it, the day we meet our Lord in heaven may be something like that. It will be the culmination of a lifetime of anticipation and longing, and then…unspeakable joy in one eternal moment in which the Scripture simply says, “They shall see His face” (Revelation 22:4).

The one quality possessed by all those who will experience that eternal moment is purity. In Matthew 5:8, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  And in 1 John 3:3, after promising that “we shall see Him as He is,” the apostle John says, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  Hebrews 12:14 instructs us to pursue “holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

My desire to see the Lord is more than just a lovely thought or a wishful fantasy.  It is an all-consuming hope.  It is a deep desire, a burning passion that empowers the pursuit of purity and holiness.  And, most importantly, it accepts the unvarnished reality that the only means of obtaining the necessary purity is through obedience to God’s truth (cf. 1 Peter 1:22).

May our lives be lived in that daily pursuit of purity, so that one day we may see Him face to face.

  Face to face with Christ, my Savior, Face to face—what will it be,

When with rapture I behold Him, Jesus Christ who died for me?

Face to face! O blissful moment! Face to face—to see and know;

Face to face with my Redeemer, Jesus Christ who loves me so

Face to face I shall behold Him, Far beyond the starry sky;

Face to face in all His glory, I shall see Him by and by!

(Hymn Lyrics by Carrie E. Breck)

– Steve Klein

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“You Brought Pavement?”

I once heard a story that was intended to express how heaven’s riches are beyond measure.  It was a story about a rich man who was near death.  He grieved because he had worked so hard and wanted to carry his riches with him.

The rich man pleaded with God and was allowed by God to bring one bag. Overjoyed, he loaded his suitcase full of gold bars.  Upon arrival at heaven, he was checking in and was told by Peter the bag would not be allowed.  He insisted that he had permission.  Things were checked on, and it was found that he did have approval from God.  When the bag was opened to see what was so needed by the man, Peter exclaimed, “You brought pavement?!”

Imagine a place that is so vast in its riches that gold is its pavement!  The Bible says…

“…And the street of the city

was pure gold, 

like transparent glass.” 

(Revelation 21:23)

It reminds me of the time in the Bible when the queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon and see the splendor of His wisdom and His kingdom.  Remember that she is very rich herself.  Yet, look at her words when she saw THIS kingdom!  She says…

I did not believe the words until I came

and saw it with my own eyes; 

and indeed the half was not told me.

Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the 

fame of which I heard.”

(1 Kings 10:7)

Even she was “blown away” by what she saw!  Solomon’s kingdom was so loaded with gold that nothing was made from silver for “silver was counted as nothing in the days of Solomon” (1 Kings 10:21).  Imagine that!

Indeed, God uses the grandest earthly riches and colorful words to try to describe heaven’s beauty to us.  Yet, I am still persuaded that within the first few seconds of actually seeing it with eternal, spiritual eyes, we will exclaim, “The half has not been told me.”  

An entire suitcase of gold is as nothing there, especially when the street is laid with the finest gold ever quarried!  And then to see God and our Lord Jesus Christ whose wisdom, splendor, love, and kindness have no equal!

O, for a home with God!  Read about it.  Ponder it’s majesty.  Obey God’s plan of salvation.  Live the adventure that leads to the mansions of glory.  You will be eternally glad you did.

– Jeff May

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Heaven — The Ultimate Vacation Destination!

vacatinIt’s vacation time!  Schools are letting out for the summer across our nation.  Families are looking forward to vacations in the mountains or at the beach, and a fortunate few may even visit some exotic luxurious destination in a distant land.  But no vacation spot on earth can compare to the glories of heaven.

The Christian’s ultimate destination is heaven, which offers wonderful amenities and gorgeous vistas to be enjoyed with beautiful people for all eternity.  While heaven is not a physical place for fleshly bodies, it is a place that the Bible describes using earthly metaphors.  Imagine seeing an advertisement for a vacation spot that has these features and amenities:

  • You’ll stay in a mansion prepared by Jesus. In John 14:2 Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you.”
  • Everything is new and nothing decays. The Lord promises that He will make “all things new” ( Revelation 21:5) and that nothing can destroy what we’ll possess (Matthew 6:20; Hebrews 10:34)
  • You feel great every day. There is no pain or sorrow! (Revelation 21:4-5)
  • You have a glorious body without diet and exercise! Philippians 3:20-21 promises that Christ “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.”
  • Your mansion is in a beautiful city, filled with beautiful people. The glory of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ illuminate the city, “and the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it” (Revelation 21:21-25).
  • And all of this can be yours at no cost to you! It is given freely for eternity! (Revelation 21:6-7)

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Do you wanna go?

The good news is that if you have been born again, your reservation has already been made by God Himself.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope…to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4).

If you’ve ever had to cancel a vacation reservation at the last minute because “something came up,” you know a little about disappointment.  Let’s make sure we keep our reservation in heaven.  Let us make going to heaven our greatest desire, and let us pursue that desire with our most diligent effort, no matter what comes up.  “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:13-14).

– Steve Klein

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Jesus’ Blood: A Special “Wite Out”

Quite often I come across Christians who wonder how they could ever be fit for heaven.  They wonder, “If heaven is a perfect place and I am imperfect, how could I ever be allowed there?”

wite-outJesus’ blood provides the way for us to be blameless, perfect and suited for heaven.  It has been compared to liquid paper (“Wite Out”) used by secretaries, especially in the days of typewriters.  The boss hires a secretary and expects her to turn out excellent work.  But he knows that even while she strives for excellence, she will occasionally make a mistake.  So, he provides “Wite Out” to her.  The “Wite Out” is not provided to encourage mistakes but rather to cover them.  One day she is typing and she notices that she has made a mistake.  Immediately, she reaches for the “Wite Out,” blots out her mistake and then retypes.  What is presented to the boss at the last?  A perfect paper.  It’s not perfect because she has been perfect but because she made use of the “Wite Out” and then retyped to get it right.

Likewise, you and I can be presented holy and blameless before Jesus on the judgment day.  Each day, with the help of God, we strive to be like Jesus in every way.  When we sin and fail to be like Him, we reach for His blood through prayer and ask God to blot out our mistakes.  The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  Once He has blotted out our sins, we then continue to be about the business of striving to be like Jesus—retyping, if you will.

The blood of Jesus, our special “Wite Out” keeps us perfect before God.  It’s our progress in becoming more and more like Jesus that God wants to see.  And when we have given our all to be like Jesus, God will cap it off at the last by making us just like Him—perfect and suited for heaven (1 John 3:2-3)

 “Though your sins are like scarlet, 

they shall be as white as snow” 

(Isaiah 1:18).

                                                                                                    - Jeff May

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A Day in the Courts of God

Is there somewhere you long to be more than any place else in this world?  Think about it.  Maybe it’s a favorite vacation spot, a cabin on the lake, a concert by your favorite entertainer, or just an easy chair in your living room surrounded by family.  Most of us have that ideal place that stirs within us a wonderful mix of feelings — joy, excitement, peace and contentment.

For the Psalmist, that ideal spot was the tabernacle of God.  He longed for it with every fiber of his being.  “How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalms 84:1-2).  He’s a bit obsessed, isn’t he?  But what a magnificent obsession!  In verse ten he sounds like a kid talking about getting to go to Disney World when he says, “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.”

Heaven is God’s eternal tabernacle.  Just one everlasting day in God’s presence will be better than any day you’ve ever spent on earth, even if you could live a thousand lifetimes.  As the apostle John is about to be shown heaven’s splendor in the book of Revelation, he writes. “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God’ ” (Revelation 21:3).

For those who love God and long to be with Him, there could be no better place than God’s eternal tabernacle.  May it be our life-long obsession.

 – Steve Klein


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