Your VIP All-Access Pass

Who doesn’t want an all-access pass?

In sports, the all-access-pass by getting you in the door of the arena.  That’s not saying much, since anyone can walk through the door of nearly any stadium in the world.  The all-access pass pass also gets you beyond the ticket office.  Again, not that great since anyone can purchase a ticket and gain entrance into a sporting event.  Once in the arena, however, the all access pass begins to really perform for the person in possession.  It allows you to walk past the ushers, down to the field of competition, and into the locker room area.  As thousands of people can be heard in the arena, the all-access pass has opened the door for you to stand in the room where the players prepare for the game and listen to the coach discuss strategy.  All-access is an incredible privilege.  A gift that places you right in the middle of the action.

God has given you an all-access pass as well.  One with a very distinct difference.  His pass doesn’t permit you to merely listen to Him talk to others.  The all-access pass of the heavenly Father allows you direct access to Him.  Giving you an intimate and open line of communication through Jesus Christ.  The Bible says, For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  (Ephesians 2:18)  His desire for you is to not simply sit in the locker room and merely listen. His all-access pass should inspire our all-life devotion.

So go for it.  Get in the game.  Swing for the fence and watch as God honors the decision of your heart to play for Him!

What the KC Royals Taught me Last Night.

I have a book project that has become more than frustrating.

After several months of intense writing, I believed I had crafted a devotional for athletes and coaches that would serve as a huge blessing in their life.  In short order, I had written a manuscript, crafted the book proposal and attained a high profile literary agent.  Getting a literary agent to represent the book was difficult, but in doing so, I was confident he would be able to open doors that were previously shut. Little did I know publishing giants still serve as gatekeepers to the book world.

My agent started out optimistic.  But with every “pitch” to a publisher, the same response seem to volley back into our court.  “It’s good, but the author needs a larger platform”.  In short, I needed a larger following to insure “sales” of the book. This was frustrating, discouraging and personally embarrassing. My friends and family knew the book I had written was being pitched. They also knew I had high hopes. With every month, however, my discouragement continued to grow. In my mind, I could feel myself staring failure in the face and choosing to give up. Electing to back down. In no time, the book would sit dormant, rejection letters from publishers would continue to accumulate and my hopes of bringing this message to athletes and coaches was fading quickly.

If I were to be completely honest, I felt defeated.  Until, that is, I watched the Kansas City Royals comeback and win last nights game.  This would be their fourth comeback of the series, providing evidence to the fact that resilience and perseverance are more than often a requirement of winning. In fact, over the course of the playoffs, the Royals had win probabilities in seven games of:

18%

1%

25%

8%

10%

16%

5%

They won all seven of those games.  Let me say that again.  When their backs were against the wall and failure was staring them directly in the face, they kept playing.  They kept persevering.  They kept working.   And because of their resilience, they kept winning. I have to say, I was more than convicted last night as I watched a team stare defeat directly in the eyes and laugh. I don’t mean that metaphorically.  They literally were laughing in the dugout during the 9th inning as they senses a comeback.  Personally, I know that through the rejection my small little book project, I haven’t been laughing.  I have not been working.  And, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve not been persevering.

As I’ve pondered this lesson of sports and life, another interesting thought has continued to surface in my mind.  A reflection on the win probability of Jesus.

I wonder what the win probability of Jesus was as he stood on the steps with Pontius Pilate and Barabbas?  50%?

Or how about as they lashed his back with blood stripes and pressed a crown of thorns into his head? 19%?

I wonder what the odds makers were shouting as they drove nails through his hands and a spear through his side? 3%?

Or how about this. What were the odds as they laid Him in the grave and covered the doorway with a boulder? 0%?

My friend, today you and I are given the privilege of serving a God who didn’t stare defeat in the face, He stared death in the face and kicked its butt.  His back wasn’t against a wall, it was resting upon on a cold hard grave. Defeat seemed likely, yet He still rose in VICTORY.

So often, victory occurs outside the parameters of statistics.  Beyond what is probable and far past the norm.  It’s often times a weird concoction of improbable ignorance and blind faith to keep beleiving when all hope seems to have passed. So if your in a struggle of your own today, have hope.  The God you love is no more concerned about statistical probabilities anymore than the KC Royals were last night.  In fact, he specializes in overcoming the odds and is a master at bringing victory to peoples lives, including yours.

Oh, as for the little book project that has been rejected and neglected? It’s time to laugh, work, persevere, and keep going.  I think the Royals would do it that way, but more importantly, I’m fully confident the Savior I love would want it that way.

You are the Light of the World

You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)

Jesus gives the Christian both an enormous compliment and a tremendous responsibility when Christ pronounces the believer to be the light of the world,  In consideration of the fact that Jesus claimed to be the light of the world (John 8:12) as He walked this earth, the awesome reality that we have been chosen for His team should leave us awe-struck. The words of Jesus convey that the believer is not simply ‘a” light, but “the” light. Your life has the God-given potential to shine His Gospel for His Kingdom and for His glory. Never underestimate your value in the eyes of your Heavenly Father or the integral role in growing His Kingdom!

Don’t complain about how others are not letting their light shine.  This is a distraction from the enemy.  Focus on your light alone and rejoice in the opportunity to use your gifts to bring glory to God.

It’s important to understand the light people perceive in in our lives does not actually come from us.  Consider the sun and moon.  There is no light coming from the moon allowing us to witness it’s shape in the sky.  The moon merely reflects the light of the sun, and thus, shines. By the same token, Jesus is the source of all light. As disciples, we reflect the light of Christ to a world living in darkness. Comprehending this dynamic is important.  There is a direct relationship between our unbroken communion with Christ and the light people witness in our lives. The Bible says, “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,  (Isaiah 42:6)  Stay near to Jesus. Hold hands with the God whose has called you into righteousness.

As you commune with Him in quiet places, He will present you as a light in public places.

The Recruiting Offer of a Lifetime

I PLAY FOR HIM. While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). At once they left their nets and followed him. Little did these men know that the words Jesus spoke that day would be the most important recruiting offer they would ever hear. No prior experience could prepare them for the power that was about to unfold.

In the span of just a few short years, they would witness Him multiply food, (Luke 9:16) transform water to wine, (John 2:1-11) and walk across Sea of Galilee. (Matthew 4:18) They marveled as He commanded a storm to cease (Mark 4:39-41) and watched in awe as He summoned a paralytic to pick up his mat and walk (Mark 2:11). But before they witnessed any of those miraculous events, a two-word recruiting offer had been extended.

“Follow Me.”

He didn’t promise them a life free from hardship. Nor did he offer them fame in exchange for their allegiance. His charge to this group is a sobering reminder to us all that in order to be on His team, we must be willing to push every chip to the middle and declare, “I’m all in.”

When all is said and done, it’s His team and His game. But don’t miss this point, Jesus isn’t just asking you and me to join His team, he’s recruiting us to play for Him.

Play your butt Off!

If God has gifted you to run, then run. If God has equipped you with the ability to jump, then jump. Assuming God knows what He is doing, we must also assume that your athletic gifts have been given with a Godly purpose in mind.

We would never doubt that God knows what He’s doing, so why do we question the gifting He places inside people? Why do we say certain gifts are “of God” and others are not? How can we be so quick to lay judgment on the idea that a guitar can be used for God but a football cannot? Have you not seen a guitar used to defy God and witnessed a football used to exalt God? And have you not seen a guitar glorify God and a football defy Him? In the end, its not about the the gifting, its about the glory. Either we try to selfishly hoard our gifts and their rewards for ourselves, or we freely offer them to God.

“Use these gifts to show others your love,” should be the cry of our heart.

As we commune with Christ, thinking this way will become quite natural. The Bible says, As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (1 Peter 4:10) It would be foolish to think that your athletic gifting should be placed on the shelf and declared unusable.

So run, jump, and compete. “Play your butt off”, as many coaches would say. But when you do, don’t play for yourself, play for Him.

Destined to be a World Changer

Your true identity in this life is not as an athlete. An athlete is what you do, a follower of Christ is who you are. You are first and foremost a child of the living God.(Galatians 3:26) You are an annointed saint destined to be a world changer.

The Bible says, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 John 2:27)

He has gifted you to be an ambassador for the cause of the gospel. A representative of Jesus. A person who brings to light the sacrifice of the cross and the hope it offers. Teaching the world that His resurrection from the grave not only brought Him to life, but will spiritually bring them to life as well.

So when you lace up your shoes, put on your cleats, pull on your swim cap, or dawn your uniform don’t be misled. The name on your jersey is the visual sign of the sports team you “play on”. But the name on your heart, is the consecrated evidence of the Savior you “play for”.

#iplayforHim

There is No Greater Strength than this . . . .

Where is your heart today? Are you consumed with the activity around you and missing the Savior above you? Have you forgotten His Spirit has taken residence within you? Is the busyness of life trumping the truth that God has secured your life for eternity? Has the weight of the world become greater than the God who formed it? Are you feeling defeated by the magnitude of everything around you?

The apostle Paul not only knows how you feel, but offers advice amidst the chaos of frustrations and anxiety. The Bible says, … “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7)

Paul is not coaching you to “suck it up”. He’s not yelling at you to “get with the program”. No where does he ever suggest that handling the challenges of life are about your ability to find strength within yourself. In fact, he is saying the exact opposite. When the things of this world are holding you down and applying unbearable pressure, your strength will not be found in rising up, but in kneeling down.

The scene is the Garden of Gethsemane. The main character, Jesus Christ. The supporting cast of Peter, James, and John are of little help. Sleep has overtaken their bodies as Jesus falls to His knees in anguish. “My soul is sorrowful” (Matthew 26:38), he utters. A third character perhaps, Satan, stalks the surroundings tempting Jesus to quit. Luring him to give in. Playing upon the notion that Jesus isn’t strong enough to handle what’s about to happen. (Sound familiar?) As the sweat of Jesus turns to blood, He whispers to heaven, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Engulfed in despair, Jesus goes to the only source that can truly help, His Father.

Is there is an area of your life where victory seems improbable? Are you drowning in despair? If so, it may be time to go to your Gethsemane and take the greatest posture of strength that exists. Kneeling at the foot your Father.

Keep Getting Up

The greatest thing about going to the tomb of Jesus was that it was found empty. Knocked down to the point of death, Jesus hung on a cross that screamed of defeat. But staying down wasn’t an option. Drenched in sweat, bloodied in battle, the miracle was set in motion. And then three days later…..he got up.

“And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in
they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.”
(Luke 24:2-3)

Ironically, there is tremendous opportunity and blessing in these moments when it appears we have lost. Who we become in life is heavily influenced by our learned ability to
handle adversity. Few would argue we learn more about who we are
during those moments in life when we stare defeat in the face. In tough times, three players of life surface.

The first is the quitter. Those who stay down when they face adversity.
They give up easily, care little of results, and often can’t wait to get
the game over with. When they get knocked down, they stay down.

The second type of person is neutral. When knocked down, this person
doesn’t stay down, but never fully gets up either. They often sit on the
fence, waiting for someone else to lift them up. When things are going
great, they are great. But when things are going bad, they fold.

The third is the winner. They’ve been knocked down harder than anyone
else because they’ve probably put in more time than anyone else. They’ve
also learned to understand a very powerful principle. Staying down is not
an option. I didn’t say winning, I said staying down. This is the person
who is prepared to be drenched in sweat, bloodied in battle, and
completely exhausted from giving literally every ounce of effort. When
the competition is over, no matter the score, this person has won, because
they’ve learned success is not about winning and losing. It comes to the
person who just keeps getting up.

When you are knocked down physically, get up. When you are cut down
emotionally, get up. When you are tired spiritually, get up. Never doubt your effort to persevere is in vain if you are performing for God’s glory.

The Most Misquoted Sports Verse in History

There would be little argument within the Christian sports culture that one particular piece of scripture has become the “go to” verse for Christian athletes. It’s plastered on t-shirts, posters, pictures, banners and even the walls of weight rooms.  If you put your mind to it, I’ll bet you more than likely come up with the verse below.

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Most have been conditioned to conclude “I can do all things” indicates Jesus’ power assisting in their success of scoring touchdowns, hitting home runs and winning championships.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what the writer of Philippians had in mind.  Paul wasn’t saying “I can achieve all things,” but rather “I can endure all things”.  He was sharing that he’d learned to be content no matter what his circumstances — rich or poor, hungry or well fed, in prison or out.

In the end, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is not about Jesus propelling you to to achieve, but rather Jesus fortifying you to endure, ultimately discovering peace and satisfaction within every circumstance.

This shift in perspective makes all the difference for you as an athlete.  It reveals that Christ will sustain you during the highs and lows of competition.   That in good seasons and bad, victory or defeat, you will endure with Christ by your side.  He is enough.

In a world and sports culture where situations change so rapidly, it is assuring to have a relationship with a Savior who does not change.  The Bible says, “Jesus is the same yesterday, and today and forever.”  (Hebrews 13:8)  If Christ could endure the hardship of the cross, His strength is certainly sufficient to sustain us through the hardships of competition.

It is a Kingdom mindset to take refuge in the certainty that when the game is over, you still have Christ.

Court Side Seats in Heaven

The work we do on behalf of Jesus does not open the door to heaven. It is His work on the cross which opens the door to heaven.

His work. His sacrifice. His death. His resurrection.

Our faith life derails the minute our eyes become fixated more upon our work for Jesus rather than His work for us. He is salvation. He is forgiveness from sin. He, Jesus Christ is the one who died for the sins of many.

By accepting this gift of God, His spirit resides in you! And with His Spirit, God begins to reshape your heart and ultimately transform your life .  Consider what is written in Ezekiel 36: 26-27. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

Nothing in this life offers anything close to what His death and resurrection does. Court-side seats in heaven were purchased at the foot of the cross and can be attained from a Savior who not only died on a hill, but walked out of a grave three days later.