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Several years ago I watched a Roy Firestone interview with Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Not very far into the conversation the subject of coach John Wooden came up. Jabbar described the first day of practice at UCLA. John Wooden was a former all-American basketball player at Purdue University and won 10 national championships in 12 years as coach of UCLA. He was a master coach but had a firm belief in the basics. The first day of college practice he made all the players sit in a circle. This was awkward and made them feel like children. He told them, “today I will show you two things that will be a benefit to you and the team.” “I want you to take your shoes and socks off, and I will show the proper way to put your socks on and the proper way to tie your shoes.” The players glanced at each other. They were thinking: ‘we have been putting our socks on and tying our shoes since we were small children.’ Mr. Wooden informed them if you put your socks on correctly you won’t get blisters and if you don’t get blisters, you won’t miss games. You may be the best scorer or rebounder, but if you are sitting on the bench with an injury, you cannot play. If you tie your shoes correctly, your laces will not come undone, and if your shoelaces never come untied, you won’t have to stop and tie them or trip over your shoelaces and perhaps miss a vital play or worse sustain an ankle injury.
This interview got me to thinking about spiritual basics. Complexity seems to be the order of the day. The answer to complex questions is not more complex answers, the answer is in having a basic appreciation and understanding of our faith.
The first essential Scripture passage is in Deut. 6:4 “Hear O Israel the Lord our God He is one. You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength.” The people of God had been wandering around in the wilderness for forty years, God sent them food. Soon they will cross the Jordan at flood stage. They will continuously be in battles for the land. They and their children will see and experience things they had never seen or experienced. Canaan was a wicked place. So the answer to dealing with the complexities of the day was not more complexity but simple faith. Hear O Isreal there is one God and we are to love and serve Him entirely. Many times I am asked to help mediate situations that are quite complex, and the answer is not more complexity but a God-focussed vision.
There is a keen interest in the subject of discipleship. How does one become a disciple of Jesus, and how do we grow and progress in our discipleship? In Luke 9:23 Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
We must be Christ-followers. Jesus starts by saying “whoever” The good news is that you and I are a part of the “whoever.” Jesus then says we must deny ourselves! This is not a popular topic, denial! To be a Christ-follower, I must submit everything to Christ. Jesus reminds us that the world looks at things backward from the Kingdom. In the world, if you want to win, you must push others aside to get ahead. In the Kingdom, if you want to be first, you must be last. You want to be a leader, become a servant. He builds this Kingdom on self-denial and self-surrender. Following Jesus is the best and only way to live. Jesus said one must pick up their cross daily. The cross may be a lot of things, a piece of jewelry, something we place on the walls of our homes and churches. The cross was an instrument of death. It was on the cross that Jesus died and purchased our redemption. Paul says in Galatians 2:20 “ I am crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In our cross carrying, we identify with Christ. Our lives are not our own, we belong to Him. I will over the next few days identify seven passages in total that speak of the basics of our faith.
1 We must be God-focussed Deut. 6:4
2 We must be Christ-followers Luke 9:34
In difficult times and days filled with complexity, we must keep our mind on God and follow our Savior as He leads us.

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