Where has your passion gone?

Where has your passion gone?

At some point, most athletes hit a point in their sports life where they lose their love for the game. A time where playing isn’t fun anymore and participation feels more like “I have to” than “I love too.” Spiritually, a loss of passion can be directly related to a decrease in consistent personal time with God. The quiet moments you share with Jesus are strength for your soul and fuel for your service. They are the secret to bringing yourself near to God. The Bible says, The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18) A God who is near is a God who is difficult to remain passionless towards.

Go back to the Savior. Not in a book, but on your knees. Return to the one who saved you and talk with Him. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8) Come home to your first spiritual love and ask for His spirit to be re-ignited within you. Beg for the passion to return. Plead for your eyes to see the weight of your apathy. And then wait. Wait and watch as the God of the universe renews your strength.

The prophet Isaiah writes, but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31) Our passionless performance will never improve by restlessly trying, but in patiently waiting.

The good news is what you believe to have lost, can be found. The love that once overflowed from your life can be refilled. Jesus is waiting. In the silence of your room, He is waiting. On a hillside with a cool breeze, He is waiting. Alone in the locker room of life, He is waiting. Jesus is patiently waiting to hold you, love you, and fill you with a life of greater passion.

Where has your passion gone? The answer is no where. He’s been present all the while.

Would you give up with 44 seconds left?

They were in the Sweet 16, and then all of the sudden . . . . they weren’t.

Depending on which win probability calculator you ask, Northern Iowa had a 99.99 percent chance of winning with 44 seconds to go. (see graph below)

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Obviously, the near 100% calculation was incorrect, as UNI would go on to allow the biggest last-minute comeback in college basketball history, ultimately losing in double OT to Texas A & M.

Twelve hours later, the shrapnel has been what you would expect, with discussions swirling around Ben Jacobson (UNI Head Coach) and the incredible collapse of a team who went from “greatest victory is school history” to “greatest defeat in school history” in a mere 44 seconds.  It was the kind of loss that left you sitting in your seat as a spectator with a bag of mixed emotions. Fortunate to have witnessed the history. Shocked at the epic collapse. Confused how UNI couldn’t inbound the ball.  Ultimately, sick to your stomach while watching a team exit the court baffled and horrified at what had just taken place.

As I’ve read the articles and listened to the pundits talk this morning, I find myself wondering if we are missing a greater story.  A question that warrants discussion.

Would you give up with 44 seconds left?

Let me be a little more clear.  Would you admit defeat when your team was down 12 points with 44 seconds left in the game? Not two possessions in 44 seconds, not three possessions in 44 seconds, but FOUR possessions in 44 seconds.

Would you give up?

The easy point of discussion this morning is Northern Iowa’s epic collapse.  But in order for this collapse to even take place, another ingredient had to also be in play.  With defeat dragging them to the lockerroom, Texas A&M had to make a decision that would be completely counterintuitive to the situation.  They had to decide as a team not to quit.

Now, don’t miss what I just wrote.  I didn’t say “they didn’t quit.”  I said “they decided not to quit.” Big difference.

When faced with insurmountable odds, not quitting requires an intentional choice.  A choice that almost always flies in the face of practicality.  A choice on-lookers will openly mock, yet rarely understand.

The decision to keep going when you can’t see the path to victory goes far beyond the virtue of perseverance.  It’s tenacity, determination and staying power.  It’s endurance and steadfastness.  Persistence and stick-to-it-ivenness.  But most of all, it’s these traits clothed in perhaps the most mysterious virtue of all; faith.

The Bible says that faith is being sure in what we hope for and confident about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)  It’s commonly debated whether this verse is a definition of what faith is, or a description of what faith does.  The context refers to trusting the truths the word of God promises to all those who believe in Jesus Christ.

In the sports world, a broader context of faith commonly presents itself in moments like last night. It’s trusting the impossible is still possible, even if you can’t see it.  It’s believing the win probability calculator is wrong when everyone in the arena would bet the mortgage it’s right. It’s looking at the scoreboard and seeing you are down 12 with 44 seconds and still believing your team can walk on water and not sink.

After the final buzzer had sounded, Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy was asked to comment on the game.  His answer had little to do with basketball, but was clearly clothed in the mysterious virtue of faith.

“Still don’t really know what happened. … I mean, come on. I don’t know what Vegas’ odds are on a situation like that. People know about my faith. All I can say is to God be the glory. I’m just thankful for that moment.” 

So are we Billy Kennedy.  So are we.  It’s never gets old listening to a man of faith thank the God he serves for showing us all a broader picture of what faith is and what faith does.

What is Your Chariot of Fire?

1 Samuel 2:30

Eric-Liddell

What is the mark of a Great man or woman of God?

It is found in powerful muscles or unending endurance?  Is it intelligence, wisdom, or the innate ability to respond when your back is against the wall?  Does greatness reveal itself in ones ability to lead and inspire others or persevere through adversity?  Although good, these things are not the mark of the great man or woman of God.

What makes a great man or woman of God can be found in one very distinct trait;  how they run.

Eric Liddell (1902-1945) may be the greatest example of an athlete running after God and dedicating every part of his life to the Lord. The Flying Scotsman, as he was called, was the living embodiment of 1 Samuel 2:30 where the Lord says, “…Those who honor me I will honor…”

In 1981 Liddell was immortalized in the true-life movie “Chariots of Fire,” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1982. Liddell’s heart for the Lord is as legendary as his conviction to not compete on the Sabbath. So committed to his faith, Liddell gave up the chance to win a 1924 gold medal in his best race, the 100-meter, because it meant racing on a Sunday. Liddell was the son of missionary parents in China and used the publicity he garnered in racing to promote the Gospel of Christ. He died as a POW in Japanese controlled China in 1945.

For the athlete questioning whether competing for Christ is honoring to God, they need only to reflect on the powerful quote Liddell whispered pertaining to his athletic gifting and personal love for Christ. “… I believe God made me for a purpose … He also made me fast. When I run I can feel His pleasure.”

If you have time, take 4 minutes to watch this clip of Liddell, and hopefully it will renew your passion to run the race God has for you and you alone.

 

Why God still loves Cam Newton (even if you don’t).

There he was.  Hood up, shoulders down, slouched in a chair not giving an ounce of eye contact to a soul in the room.  From the most powerful and visible sports platform in the world, the seemingly invincible Cam Newton was showing the world his worst.  He looked like a punk.  Like a disrespectful punk.  And yet God, the same God who forgave you and I of our sin, looked upon Cam with eyes searching for something different than what we humans do.  Supernaturally scanning the situation, God peered closely at the young man, looking for the slightest crevice he could find to begin giving the man what no one would after this event.

Grace.

With supernatural eyes He looked upon Cam Newton not in judgement, but love.  With every irreverent, under the breath answer Cam spoke, God whispered, “I love you.”  As Cam exited the podium in what seemed like complete disrespect to the sports media (it would later be revealed Cam could hear a Denver player talking about their game plan to test Newton’s pass-making ability that spurred the early exit), God whispered, “I love you.”  As the locker room slowly emptied and Cam sat dejected on a stool, God whispered, “I love you.”  In the shower……”I love you.”  Getting dressed……..”I love you.”  Riding home…..”I love you.”  Again and again, God would begin showing Cam Newton why He is God and why God is Love.

Why?  Why on earth would God love such an arrogant, prideful, narcissistic athlete who seems to have the temperament of child?  Why would he love someone who so readily celebrates during victory, but wants no part of it in defeat?  Why would God love someone who can dish it out and not take it?

As you ponder the answers to those questions, I’m going to take a moment.  Jesus just showed up with a stick in His hand and is drawing in the sand.  I can’t quite make out what He’s writing, but……oh wait a minute….He’s going to say something.

“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at him.” And once more Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones. (contextual adaptation from John 8)

Wow, that was pretty in your face don’t you think?  Let’s see, am I without sin?  Hmmm, the answer is a pretty easy… no. I’m arrogant at times. Prideful at times. Even narcissistic in certain moments of my life I guess.  And, if I were to be totally transparent, my temperament even resembles that of a child in situations I would just as soon forget.  Hmmmm, this isn’t going too well.  Wait a minute, Jesus is saying something else to Cam………

Jesus was left alone with Cam Newton standing before him. “Cam, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” Cam said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (contextual adaptation from John 8)

Translation:  Psssssssss. “I love you Cam.”

Ok, so let me get this straight.  Jesus’ role is to forgive.  Our role is to not condemn.  And Cam’s role is to sin no more.

I’m confident God will take care of the first.  

Praying that Cam will be inspired to achieve the last.  

But how are we doing on the middle one?

With stones in our hand, have we become so spiritually numb that we’ve elected to throw stones instead of drop them? So prideful to forget there was perhaps a time in many of our lives where dare I say…gulp……………….we were Cam Newton (there was in my life for sure). It may have looked different and undoubtably wasn’t on the most visible stage on the planet, but at some point in our lives, and maybe in times to come, we were and are Cam Newton.

So let’s give him the same grace we were given. Let’s bestow unconditional love to a person who does not deserve it right now.  I get it, believe me I know it’s hard.  I know the easy thing to do is throw the stone.  It’s much harder to drop it.  It’s even more difficult to release the stone and love the person.  But that’s grace. That’s what make Jesus unique, special and all together different than any other false god.  He shows up and offers love and grace when no one will.  In our lives, and yes, in Cam Newton’s life as well.  John Stott explains grace this way, “Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”

I’m not sure where you side on this polarizing issue, but I’m thinking it’s time to get off my own high horse, stoop a little and rescue superman.

It’s time for grace.

Are you Desperate for God to Show Up?

Are you desperate for God to show up?

Athletes in particular possess an unquenchable desire to show the crowd what they can accomplish in their own strength and ability.  Instead of envisioning all the things we can accomplish, what if we start by asking God to do what only He can accomplish.  This doesn’t mean we don’t plan, organize, and work hard.  Preparation in any part of life is important.  But dedication/submission to God in all parts of life is vital.

If someone were to ask the three people closest to you in life, would they say your life is characterized by an urgency for the Spirit of God to show up?  Are you trusting God with everything, or is He simply a distant grandfather figure you pray to before meals and when something really big is coming up? In short, are you desperate for God to show up?

Why are we so content to settle for a faith dependent on our ability?  Why are we not clamoring for a front row seat to watch the God of the universe do what He does best.

The impossible.

The Starting Point in a Believers Life

Growing up, most athletes go searching from coaches who can cut the learning curve.  Individuals who have the knowledge and ability to teach them what they need to know in order to be successful.  On one particular day, Jesus did one of his most thought provoking “how to” teachings along the mountainside.  In the beatitudes, Jesus is a teaching how a person who is staking his life on the kingdom of God, should live.

Beatitude 1: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

When Jesus uses the word, “blessed” He is not referring to happiness.  He is pointing to an inward peace and contentment that is not affected by outward circumstance.  To be “blessed” a person must be vulnerable to their unworthiness before God and admit their dependence on Him.  This type of inner conviction brings a state of joy that is not dependent on what happens around them.  For many, God has to strip the clothing of pride from us in order for us to be willing to come and receive from Him. The foundation of a genuine relationship to Christ is the harsh reality that “I cannot begin to do it” alone. Then, says Jesus,

“Blessed are you.” That is the starting point of the believers life.  Comprehending our sin, opens the gate to the arena where Jesus Christ works in our life.

As an athlete, poor in spirit is not the absence of physical strength, its the acknowledgement of spiritual bankruptcy.  Without Jesus, we are flat broke spiritually.  Unless this is rectified, nothing you do on the field of competition will ever matter.  The trophies will rust, the ribbons will tear, and the medals will get lost.  The years of striving for recognition from the sports culture will do you no good in the eyes of God.  He is selfishly interested in your recognition of Him and Him alone.  Do this, and God promise the poorness of your spirit will bring the blessing from a King.

#iplayforhim

My Best will be Good Enough

My best EFFORT will hep me overcome my opponent’s talents.

My best ATTITUDE will inspire me to persevere under trial; to believe when other have given up the fight.

My best PERSPECTIVE helps me understand that although I passionately compete, there are bigger things in life.  Bigger things beyond this life.

My best will be good enough.”

Of all the “bests” I offer, none can compare to my best FAITH.  For it is by faith I step onto the field of competition and humbly pray…

“My Best for HIS Glory.”

Dear Coach, I Prayed for you Today

Dear Coach,

I prayed for you today.

I’t started like any other prayer for someone in your position.  I asked God to give you strength, courage, wisdom, and perspective.  All good things.  But as I continued to pray I found myself going down a much different path than the norm.  So different, in fact, that I actually found myself praying for you to lose.

I prayed for you to lose any pride you would harbor, so that the God of the universe would not stand against you, but for you.

I prayed for you to lose the slightest bit of selfish ambition, so that in serving your team they may in time be exalted.

I prayed for you to lose any hint of arrogance in your character, so that humility would become the aroma of your life.

And lastly, I prayed that you would lose the strength you may find in yourself, so that you may cling to the strength found only in Christ.

As I appealed to God in this way a remarkable revelation was shown to me.  In the course of praying for you to lose these private parts of your heart, God told me He would present you a champion in the public arenas of your life.

Coach, you are covered in prayer today.  Covered with the hope that when we lose to ourselves we always find victory in Him.

Beyond the Field of Competition

If we truly understood the size and magnitude of God we would fall to our knees in adoration.  The Bible says By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.  (Psalm 33:6)  He spoke, and the heavens came to be.  He breathed, and stars filled the universe.  The prophet Isaiah affirms how magnificent God is when he writes, Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12)

As an athlete, you don’t play for a small God.  He’s big.  Huge.  Gigantic.  Enormous.  Massive enough to stretch the heavens with the span of his hand, yet intimate enough to listen to your prayers.  This big God takes an interest in the littleness of you.  And through His Son, he’s invited you to play in the ultimate game.

If an invitation from the creator of the universe wasn’t enough motivation, consider the idea that this star breathing, heaven stretching, ocean pouring God will actually remember your decision to play for Him.  The Bible says, For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.  (Hebrews 6:10)

As an athlete who honors God, your legacy has the potential to go far beyond the field of competition.  It can actually extend to the heavens, and be remembered by the Creator himself.

7 Traits of Exceptional Coaches

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The impact and influence of coaches is enormous.  For many young people, the voice of a coach chimes louder and clearer than any adult in their life.  Because of the power of this platform, a very important question should be asked.  What are the traits of the exceptional coaches?  Here are seven signs a coach is exceptional in their craft.

1.     Confident in what they teach.

2.     Clear in where they are going.

3.     Calm amidst times of adversity.

4.     Continuous in their pursuit of knowledge.

5.     Comprehends the differences of each athlete

6.     Communicates with clarity.

7.     Called to use sports to impact a players life.