What a Life…Happy Birthday Dean Smith!

Dean Smith.

Does this name mean anything to you? To thousands of people it means the world. Sadly, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, he passed away 3 weeks ago. He would have been 84 years old today.

Dean Smith (Coach Smith to those who knew him) was the head basketball coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels for 36 seasons. His coaching accomplishments on the court are widely known and respected. His teams won 879 games, 2 National Championships,13 ACC Tournament titles and appeared in 11 Final Fours.

While those numbers are remarkable, his greatest legacy is who he was off the court.

I’ve often heard it said that “success is when those closest to you say the best things about you.” If that’s true, Dean Smith is one of the most successful people ever to live.

Through reading numerous articles, blogs, tweets and quotes from journalists, players, coaches, staff and others associated with the “Carolina Family” I’ve realized it will be difficult to find another Dean Smith. It will be difficult to find another person who was loved by so many for who he was. Those closest to him truly said the best things about him.

He was extremely humble.

He modeled and expected excellence.

He was a man of integrity.

He fought racial discrimination and helped to integrate Chapel Hill.

He was deeply shaped by his Christian faith and it propeled him to speak out against social injustices.

He had a remarkable memory which helped him to remember people’s names and details about their lives.

He genuinely cared for people. Not just cared about people. Not just cared what he could get out of people. Not just cared when people were useful to him. Not just cared for people when they were around. He truly cared for people. And not just some people. He cared for all the people he came in contact with.

I had the privilege of playing for a high school basketball coach, Ed Wills, who was a manager on the 1993 North Carolina National Championship team. Coach Wills was the one who taught me how to shoot the correct way. He brought to our team years of basketball knowledge. Looking back now, I realize many of the lessons he worked to instill in us were undoubtedly learned while at Carolina. And for that, among other things, we were fortunate and I am thankful. I’ll never forget a few conversations with Coach Wills as he recounted his relationship with Dean Smith. Coach Wills wasn’t a star player on Carolina and to Dean Smith that didn’t matter. Dean Smith knew his name. Knew his family. Knew about his coaching career. Kept in contact with him after he left Carolina. Dean Smith was only a “phone call away.” And Coach Wills was one of thousands who could recount a similar relationship. Remarkable.

In a world where most everyone cares about “being known,” or “knowing the famous,” Dean Smith was a breath of fresh air. He knew thousands of people, and yet the mailman or grocery store bagger felt valued by him.

And what’s remarkable is that he didn’t just show the intention to care about people. He tangibly showed it. He wrote letters. Made phone calls. Remembered names. Gave gifts. Gave of his time.

He wasn’t hurried, distracted or too busy.

He was consistent.

He was a person of power that could have made himself more powerful. Instead, he leveraged his power to help others.

He was present.

Were he alive now, I doubt he’d ever trip over a crack in the sidewalk from staring at the latest status updates on his iPhone. He wouldn’t have been concerned over what was going to happen tomorrow. He would have focused on today. He would have focused on what was right in from of him. Who was right in front of him.

I could obviously go on and on. What a life.

Happy Birthday, Dean Smith!

May more people live with integrity. May more people live out their faith. May more people genuinely care for others. May more people live in the present. And might “I” be a part of those “more people.”

A collection of articles about Dean Smith can be found here.

Going for a Run

Tomorrow I’ll be doing something I never thought I’d do. I’ll be running in the Gasparilla Distance Classic 15k in Tampa.

I know. It’s not a marathon or even a half. But it is 9.3 miles.

And that’s about 9.3 more than I ever thought I’d sign up to run.

I’m not sure how well I’ll do.

I’ve only been training since the New Year.

Eating healthy is still a work in progress.

I’ve battled blisters and bleeding.

And a conversation with a college student a few weeks ago makes me a bit nervous. It went like this:

Her: “Hey, I saw you running yesterday.”

Me: “Yeah? Awesome. I’m running in the Gasparilla. How did I look?”

Her: “You looked like you were about to die.”

Me: “Ha. Thanks! What about the guy I was with?”

Her: “Oh, he looked great!”

HA! I love her honesty. We have laughed about that conversation since. And I probably did look like I was about to die. 🙂

Regardless of how I look tomorrow, training for this race has reminded me of three things:

1) There is nothing like setting a goal and going for it. My time may be terrible tomorrow. I may pull a muscle and have to walk a couple of miles. But it’s the “going for it,” the journey, that matters. It’s being able to look back on where you started and see how far you’ve come. The journey propels you to carry on in this and in other areas of your life. It shows you how much you really can accomplish when you decide to discipline yourself.

2) Life is better when you do it with others. We weren’t created to do life alone. And that includes training for a race. That guy that “looked great” when I looked like death has encouraged me tremendously. He’s given me tips on running. Texted me to check and see how I’m doing. And we’ve become closer through this process. Thanks, Joe!

3) Your spiritual life is like a race. Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” You and I are on a journey with our faith in God. We haven’t arrived. We may have doubts. Setbacks. Lows. Highs. Some days we are closer to Him than others. That’s okay. Just don’t give up. Keep pursuing Jesus. Keep Jesus as your focus. Look to Him to know how it is you are to run this race called life. And one day you will arrive at the finish line. You will see face to face who it was you were trusting in all along. Jesus.

What is Love?

Today is Valentine’s Day.

It’s the annual day where loved ones profess their love for one another verbally, tangibly and with the rise of social media, publicly. The common gifts are flowers, chocolate and love letters. Some go out for a nice dinner. Others buy jewelry, a stuffed animal or a special custom gift. It’s a “sweet” time of year.

The most profound thing about this day is that the motivation behind it all is this idea of “love.” “I love you” is thrown around more on this day than maybe any other day of the year. There is a feeling of love in the air. And yet, we live in a culture where true love is distorted and misunderstood.

Love cannot be bought.

Love is not cheap.

Love is not easy.

Love is not exemplified by 50 Shades of Grey.

Love cannot be relegated to one day a year.

Love is not a feeling.  

So what is it?

Dr. Tony Evans, defines it like this: “Love is the decision to compassionately seek the well-being of another even when the emotion of liking them is not present.”

I believe he is spot on. But how opposite is this definition of love from the love we see all around us?

In our world today, if someone doesn’t feel like loving, they won’t. If loving gets hard, they stop. If loving takes work, they quit.

So how do we cure this false, pitiful attempt at love we’ve been buying in to? How do we embrace true love? Receive it.

We will always be unable to perfectly show love. However, we can receive perfect love. And by receiving it, we will be transformed in the process and begin loving others the way we were created to.

True, perfect love has a name. Jesus. 

We see what true love is in 1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Jesus embodied true love through dying for you, me and every soul who ever has and ever will live. Even though he may not have felt like loving (Matthew 26:36-39) he followed through.

Through Jesus’ life we see that love is a choice.

Love is unwavering commitment.

Love is sacrificial.

Love is unconditional.

Love is selfless.

So when you say “I Love You” today, is it the kind of love that would lead you to lay down your life for that person? It is unconditional? Is it selfless? Or is it some weak, twisted, “feeling-founded” love that has no basis?

If you’re single, you aren’t a loser. Get to know Jesus so that when you are in a relationship you will know what true love is.

If you’re dating, be careful not to say “I Love You” if you don’t mean it, aren’t willing to follow through on it or have no idea what true love is. Instead, get to know Jesus.

If you’re married, engaged or heading in that direction, get to know Jesus. Learn how to love the way he modeled and commit to it. Your valentine is worth it. Just don’t let today be the only day you show and tell how much you love them.

Beyond romantic relationships, we all are called to love one another (John 13:34). But that’s another conversation for another day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Why do we do SUW?

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If you’ve been following me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram over the last couple weeks you’ve noticed I’ve been promoting an event called Straight Up Weekend (SUW). Well, the promo is over. It’s here! SUW starts tonight!!

So what is it?

SUW is a weekend dedicated to helping students grow in their relationship with Jesus. It’s similar to a D-Now, and has been happening at Bell Shoals for over 2 decades under the leadership of Victor Flores. It goes Friday night through Sunday afternoon. There are main sessions that include teaching and worship. Service projects on Saturday. Something we call “Point Beyond” that allows our students to connect with local non-profit organizations. And students are placed in small groups while being led by volunteer facilitators. Those groups are then hosted by families who open up their homes for the weekend.

We spend money. Facilities are completely transformed. Hundreds of hours of preparation goes into pulling it off. It requires well over 100 volunteers who sweat a lot, get sore, lose sleep, etc. But one thing is certain…

It’s all worth it.

Why?

Because students matter.

They were worth Jesus dying for!

They are not the generation of tomorrow.

They are the generation of right now!

We are called, as the student ministry at Bell Shoals, to help students follow Jesus. And we will do WHATEVER it takes to accomplish that.

For some students, they will begin a relationship with Jesus for the first time at SUW.

For some students, they will grow deeper in their faith.

For some students, they may confess to a facilitator something they have been struggling with for a long time and find help.

For some students, SUW may be a time to escape a difficult home situation and find hope.

I don’t know all the details of what every student is facing. But I know lives WILL be changed!

So to all of our AMAZING volunteers–thank you! We cannot thank you enough. You are the heroes. Whether you are serving in Point Beyond. Dishing food. Working security. Being a facilitator or Host Home. Helping to transport students. Thank you! You are a significant part of preparing the way for God to move in the lives of our students.

If you aren’t a part of SUW, please pray. Pray for all the unique elements that make SUW tick. Pray for families. And most of all, pray for God to do what only he can…to use SUW to help students follow Jesus.

Students matter. Let’s never stop doing whatever it takes to help them follow Jesus.

Have You Asked Yourself These 3 Questions?

I had only been serving at Bell Shoals for a couple of weeks when Gary Payne, our current Executive Pastor, came into my office. He checked in to see how Rachel and I were adjusting to the constant state of sweat we now found ourselves in as new Floridians. We chatted about ministry for a while. And then he shared an illustration that hasn’t left me since that day. Here’s basically what he said:

“Have you ever been to the mall? Unless you visit often, you don’t always remember exactly where every store is located. So what do you do? You find the nearest map. And that map shows you a layout of every store in the mall. You find the store you want to go to and head for it. Right? No. After finding the store, you have to find a star that says, “You are here.” Then you see how you are going to get from where you are to where you want to go. Effectively leading your ministry requires you to ask three questions: Where are you now? Where are you going? How will you get there?”

Now Gary intended this illustration to guide me in leading my ministry. And it has. It’s an excellent exercise I regularly go through. But I don’t only use it for ministry. I’ve used it in many other areas of my life. You can too. Let’s break it down a bit.

Where Are You Now? Evaluation.

Maybe you are in the ideal place right now. But for most, there is some area of our lives that we would love to do better. The difficulty is that we love to make ourselves feel good about where we are. We’re good at justifying. We don’t want to admit we may be deficient because to do so we would have to own it and take some level of responsibility. And that’s hard. That hurts. Whether or not your current circumstances are outside of your control is irrelevant. There is something you and I could do to make it better. To start we have to get real. Get honest. Stop the excuses. Stop blaming others.

We will never get to the ideal place we desire if we aren’t honest about where we currently are. Because denial is an impediment to growth. So let’s get real. And get specific. It’s what’s best.

Maybe one or more of these is you:

-I’m 30 pounds overweight.

-I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd.

-I rarely if ever exercise or strive to eat healthier.

-I’m not currently on a budget.

-I struggle with watching porn.

-I don’t give regularly to the church.

-My ministry has lost 3 volunteers and 30 members in the last 6 months.

-I can’t remember the last time I prayed, read the Bible or went to church.

-I have very little satisfaction at my job.

-I’ve only spent 3 quality days with my family in the last 3 months.

-God has gifted me to___________.

Where Are You Going? Vision.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years? If you could do or be something and not fail, what would you go for? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? What picture of the future would you like to see come to fruition in your life? What do you dream about becoming reality? These questions get at what milestones you want to accomplish. And once you have them, you have a preferred future to strive for. Here are some examples:

-I will one day be the leader of an organization.

-We will be the most accepting ministry environment anyone ever enters.

-I will run a marathon this year.

-I want to never look at porn again.

-I want to write a book.

-I will spend 1 day a week focused exclusively on my family.

-I will live by a financial budget and seek to raise my level of giving.

-I will tangibly serve others and lead my family to do so.

-I passionately love God and allow him to lead me in every area of my life.

-Our ministry will raise $100,000 to help feed impoverished children in our city.

How Will You Get There? Strategy.

Lots of people live their life without a plan. They think they will eventually end up where they need to be. Not true. People end up at less than ideal destinations every day wondering what happened. This is really the most important of the three steps. Without it you will be a miserable dreamer always wondering “why.” Develop a strategy that will take you from where you are to where you want to be. It’s going to consist of a lot of “start doings” and “stop doings.” It also requires discipline. So if you’re serious, then commit for the long-haul. It’s a journey.

-Throw away the junk food in your pantry. And go shopping for healthier options. Commit to only bringing healthy options into your home.

-Get new friends.

-Set your alarm earlier so you can exercise and spend time with God.

-Find someone who understands finances and can help you accomplish your goals. Create a budget and stick to it.

-If your current job is a bad fit, start looking for one that allows you to thrive.

-Upload software on your computer to prevent you from looking at porn.

-Go to college or pursue some other form of education.

-Regularly read and study business or ministry leaders to help you work towards your vision.

-Write out your plan, then tell someone and have them hold you accountable to it.

I may not know you or your story. But I do know that the people who made it to where they wanted to be didn’t accidentally arrive there. They evaluated where they were. Had a vision of where they wanted to go. And developed a strategy to get them there. You can too. Just remember the map at the mall.

What Is Your Boat?

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One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. – Luke 5:1-11

This story is incredible. It’s one of my favorites in all of the Bible. Jesus “one ups” some fishermen by completely astonishing them with his fishing skills. They clearly see who they are when compared to him. Their lives are changed. And they leave everything to follow him.

Until last week I’d overlooked the significance of one crucial detail in this story: the fishermen had a boat.

Now maybe you’d say “duh,” but think about it.

This boat represented their way of life…

…their most prized possession…

…their income…

…their identity…

…their security.

This boat was everything to them.

But after meeting Jesus, they were willing to leave their boat behind.

How?

Why?

They saw Jesus clearly. And they realized he was of more value than their boat.

We all have a boat of some sort.

There is something that you and I find our identity and security in other than Jesus.

There is something that we treasure more than him.

There is something that we fear losing more than anything else.

And what Jesus desperately wants for us to do is invite him into our boat. Just like the fishermen did. And let him take over.

When we do, we will find a sustained fulfillment that cannot be found elsewhere.

We will see ourselves rightly in comparison to him.

We will discover someone who is way better than that something else we’ve been holding on to.

So what is it for you?

What is your boat?

Last week I taught this to our students at Bell Shoals. You can listen to the whole message below, or fast forward to around 25 minutes as I zero in on what our “boats” might be.

https://thepointstudent.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/matt-hill-114-missional/

Pic Credit HERE

You’ve Already Failed Your Resolution…So What?!

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So it’s been 14 days. 14 days since you or somebody you know made a New Year’s resolution.

How’s that going?

Research shows that it’s likely not going very well. One particular study suggests that only 71% of people have kept their resolutions to this point. That means 29% of resolution-makers have already messed up in just 2 short weeks.

Ouch.

What’s worse is that the same study found that out of the 71% that make it two weeks, only 8% of those people end up achieving their resolutions.

8%.

So basically, there is a 92% likelihood that you are going to fail your New Year’s resolution if you haven’t already.

Ugh.

Depressed yet?

Well, don’t be.

Refuse to be.

Forget about that New Year’s resolution. That was so 2 weeks ago.

Instead, think of today as your January 14th Resolution.

Today, you can start over.

Today, you can commit to the change you intended for January 1st.

Today, failure doesn’t have to have the final say in your year.

Resetting your life for the New Year is nice. It even makes sense. It feels right. But for some reason, we have bought into the idea that once we fail at our resolution it’s over for that year. We become paralyzed in the state we started in and stop pursuing the change we desired. Maybe your resolution was to exercise 5 days per week. It’s been two weeks, and you haven’t exercised once. You have 2 options: 1) the “maybe next year I’ll exercise and lose weight…didn’t do it this year…already failed my resolution…oh well” perspective, or 2) the “I’ve messed up so far, but today I can start over” perspective.

It’s the difference between perfection and persistence.

Perfection focuses on never messing up. When it happens, the resolution is abandoned.

Persistence focuses on continuing even though messing up is inevitable.

Nobody expects perfection out of you. It’s impossible. Even the 8% that “achieve” their resolutions do so imperfectly.

What matters is being persistent in pursuing the resolution you’ve made. And when you do, you will eventually see the results. Maybe not right away. Maybe it will take longer than you’d liked. But it will happen. You may have to start again a few more times down the road after failing along the way. That’s okay. But don’t quit just because it didn’t go well since the New Year.

So what resolution do you have for yourself? What change would you like to see in your life right now?
Is it exercising? Losing weight? Reading books? Better grades in school? Spending more time with your family? Something related to your finances?

I don’t know about you, but I always try and make some sort of resolution regarding my relationship with God. For me that relationship is the foundation for my life and influences everything I’m a part of. Thankfully, God is NOT a God of second chances. He is a God of grace – the God of unlimited chances. No matter how many times I fail, He meets me where I am and lets me start over. He is the same towards you. He unconditionally loves you and desires a relationship with you. This year give it a try. Pursue a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You won’t regret it.

If you want to increase your chances of success at your resolutions, there are some practical things you can do.
-Write them down.
-Ask someone to hold you accountable to them.
-Have a plan of action steps.
-Make sure they are S.M.A.R.T – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.

But if it’s a resolution that takes any amount of effort (and the most meaningful ones do) you won’t be perfect. You will mess up somehow. And when you do, you can quit, or start over.

It’s okay if you’ve already failed.

You’re not alone.

Don’t wait until next year to restart.

Begin your resolution today.

Make a January 14th resolution!

Dan Diamond, “Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It,” Forbes, January 1, 2013. Read here.