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TNT’S ERNIE JOHNSON A Sports Spectrum Interview NFL PLAYERS ON A MISSION TO HAITI DAILY DEVOTIONALS New Daily Devotionals Written by Athletes and Chaplains

NBA FINALS RECAP The Warriors Won “On Purpose” Scores from each game Photos, Stats and More RYAN HALL 7 Marathons, 7 Continents, 7 Days


VOL. 31 NO. 2

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FLASHBACK We caught up with former MLB pitcher Dave Dravecky

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16 20 2

Rich Crowder


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You might know about Dave Dravecky’s miraculous but short-lived return to baseball. Find out what happened after his last pitch. BY BECKY YORK Relive the NBA Post-Season: the triumphs and legendary performances with detailed scoring and read how the Warriors won the title. BY RAYMOND ST. MARTIN





Two-time College World Series winning coach Andy Lopez gives credit to God for ‘undeserved favor.’ BY DAVID SMALE Joe Fuca carries Coach Wooden’s legacy forward to new generations in the San Francisco Bay Area. BY JOSH BATTLE


TNT Sports personality Ernie Johnson talks faith and family in this intimate and revealing one-on-one interview. BY JASON ROMANO Three NFL couples travel to Haiti with Food For The Hungry and experience as much transformation inside as they help create outside.



See a few of our favorite outdoor places across the country to experience God’s majesty. BY STAFF

THIS ROCK WAS MEANT TO BE CLIMBED We chat with pro rock climber Paige

Claassen about her journey in the sport, and how she uses her faith on the rock face. BY ALIESE WILLARD


Diamond Images / Getty Images






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Nathaniel S. Butler / Getty Images Eric A. Nelson / Getty Images


Elite runner Todd Harbour shares his story of coming to Christ, and how a chance encounter answered his prayer.


Becky Conzelman puts Christ at the center of CrossFit, which for many athletes has become a religion unto itself.



After a career of extreme highs and lows, US marathon runner Ryan Hall took one more challenge: seven marathons, in seven days, on seven continents.



This tear-out page offers you a collection of Bible verses chosen to help you with motivation, mental toughness, endurance, and dealing with/recovering from injury.





Adam Wainwright (p58); Demario Davis (p60); Brandon Boykin (p62); Matt Forte (p64); Tyler Clutts (p66); Daniel Murphy (p68); Adam Conley (p70); Mark Appel (p72); Steven Souza (p74); JJ Hoover (p76); David Ledbetter (p78); Chris Coghlan (p80); Benjamin Watson (p82)



Get in-depth messages from Pro Chaplains from the world of sports. Current and former NFL and MLB players break down the tenets of being a servant-leader, engaging with God’s Word, praying, and discipling.


Ryan shares his faith journey and how he’s living for the Increase of Christ.



How we have experienced God in nature KEN HUGHES







In the hills above Los Gatos, California, I often hiked completely alone; surrounded by madrones, oaks, and all manner of brush, and with the soundtrack of birdsong and breeze, I felt very integrated with Creation and close to God. Sometimes deer, unconcerned by my approach, would meet my eyes with theirs. It was a conversation with Him that mostly didn’t involve words. “If these are the beauties afforded to sinful men, what does God have in store for those who love Him?” —St. Augustine.

I’d always wanted to see the biggest and oldest trees in the world when a trip to California unexpectedly brought me to the paths winding through Grant Grove, and then, to the foot of the General Sherman Tree. Never have I felt so temporary, so small. It is simultaneously enchanting and humbling—time and scale shift—looking far up into the canopy of the world’s largest tree. If these trees can inspire such wonder, how much more do we inspire the wonder of our Creator?

Sitting lakeside in a secluded pocket of eastern Maine, I dangle my feet in the cool water and look out at the green mountains and glassy lake before me. The same water that I was carving through on a wakeboard just hours earlier now reflects a majestic sunset and I know without a doubt that my Almighty Father designed this magnificent scene for His glory! It’s here that I find peace, rest, and joy in worshipping Him, entering through the doorway of His creation.

Orlando, Florida, is a place my family and I have visited numerous times in the past 10 years. Every time we go, I become more amazed at how beautiful God’s creation truly is. It reminds me of the blessings that God has given me and allowed me to share that blessing with my wife and daughter.

My favorite place to connect with God is always in a botanical garden. Seeing beautiful flowers and plants reminds me that God, who laid the foundations of the earth, appreciates the delicate beauty in the most fleeting residents of nature. Whenever I go to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Gastonia, NC, and look at the beautiful orchids, I’m left in awe. I smile and say, ‘Wow, God…You should be bragging!’

For me, I feel most connected to God outdoors when I’m hiking or climbing in the mountains, and in particular when I reach the summit. I love to look down from the top and see the majesty and creativity of God’s creation, and realize how small I am compared to His world. My favorite (and most challenging) vistas have been at the top of fourteeners (mountains higher than 14,000 feet) in Colorado.

The High Desert: Early morning, as the sun rises on the horizon, I sip my coffee, close my eyes, and listen to the birds greet the sun. Sedona Arizona: Perched on a rock overlooking the red mountains of Sedona, I can feel God’s love for me and all of creation. The Pacific Ocean: My surfboard ebbs over rolling waves beneath, looking out into the Pacific, I sense how powerful, deep and endless our Creator is.





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LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT Dear Sports Spectrum Family,

MIKE OUTLAW In Colorado we have some of the most beautiful mountains, lakes, and rivers you could ever imagine. I’ve had very intimate discussions with our Creator while fly fishing, hiking, or just sitting on a rock taking in the amazing view. We discuss repentance, forgiveness, excitement, dreams, and prayer requests. Solitude refreshes my heart, soul, and mind as I take in the beauties of God’s handiwork. It’s a huge comfort knowing He is always with me during these extra special moments. They don’t call Colorado “God’s Country” for nothing.

Welcome to the Summer issue! These past three months have been action-packed for the Sports Spectrum movement. Thank you for being an important part of the wave that is growing! If you haven’t heard yet, I urge you to check out the Sports Spectrum podcast hosted by Jason Romano. After nearly two decades at ESPN, Jason has brought his experience and expertise, along with his passion for Jesus to our team. His guests have been men and women from among the highest levels of sport who understand what it looks like to live an athletic lifestyle that honors God. In less than two months, we’ve surpassed 20,000 downloads! Additionally, hundreds of thousands of people are now regularly visiting for daily stories at the intersection of faith and sports. Wow! Enjoy the issue in your hands right now. While it contains much of what you’ve come to love and expect, we’ve added some elements to this Summer issue that we hope you’ll enjoy. Our hope is that through them you might be reminded of the glory and wonder of God’s creation, and be inspired to spend more time enjoying it and drawing closer to Him. While you’re flipping through the pages, know that we are already working to produce an incredible football issue for this Fall. I can’t wait for you to experience what our team has been working on for that issue. Until then, know that we are grateful for you and pray that God will speak to you in the pages ahead. Until the whole world hears, . Steve Stenstrom, President of Pro Athletes Outreach Dear Reader, I hope you are enjoying the new and improved Sports Spectrum as much as we are. Thank you for your continued loyalty as we worked through the ownership transition the past six months. There have been a few challenges along the way, but it is very exciting to see God blessing this faith and sports based ministry. The staff and leadership is committed to bringing the best articles, devotionals and on-line content to you, our dedicated readers. Sincerely, Mike Outlaw Managing Director



$27.52, 4 issues (print); $36.00 outside USA For information on subscriptions, back issues, discount bulk issues, or changing your subscription address; Web site: Phone: 1-866-821-2971 Mail: 640 Plaza Drive, Suite 110, Highlands Ranch, CO 80129 Email: General correspondence, Letter to the Editor, or Writer’s Query No unsolicited manuscripts, please E-mail: Permissions, Reprints Contact: Sports Spectrum permissions Fax: 1-704-821-2669 E-mail: COVER • PHOTO CREDITS:

(Curry & Durant) Nathaniel S. Butler/Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images, (Dave Dravecky) Focus on Sport/Getty Images INSET PHOTOS: (Team)Aliese Willard, (Steve Strensom)PAO

Volume 31 Number 2 SPORTS SPECTRUM MAGAZINE A product of Pro Athletes Outreach PUBLISHER The Increase Network EDITOR IN CHIEF Raymond St. Martin ART DIRECTOR Minnie Miller STAFF WRITERS Becky York Aliese Willard Josh Battle Ken Hughes Jason Romano WEBMASTER Jonathan Stanley

Sports Spectrum Global is a multimedia ministry with the purpose to impact people by connecting faith and sports in a relevant way, ultimately directing people, with resources for discipleship, toward a personal, loving God who demands Christ-centered lives. Printed in USA. Copyright © 2016 by Sports Spectrum Publishing. Bible quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. SPORTS SPECTRUM (USPS # 023-364) is produced 4 times a year by Sports Spectrum Publishing Inc., 5712 C Stockbridge Drive, 2nd Floor, Monroe, NC 28110. Periodicals postage paid at Indian Trail, NC, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to SPORTS SPECTRUM, 640 Plaza Dr., Ste 110, Highlands Ranch, CO 80129

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DAVE DRAVECKY We caught up with former MLB Pitcher Dave Dravecky on his faith journey after losing his arm to cancer, and subsequently retiring from baseball in 1990. Who were you when you retired in 1990?

You never picture yourself in a position where you aren’t the one making your life’s choices. At that time in my life, my situation was determining my choice. I would have loved to continue playing baseball, but the cancer said no. Honestly, this was a really hard time for me. Shortly after I announced my retirement, I learned that the cancer was back. Everything I thought I was done with, I suddenly had to go through all over again. Sometimes I think back and ask myself, “Did I really do that? Was that really me with a baseball in my hand, pitching at the highest level?” And, “Did I really go through cancer? How in the world did I make it through that?” In the midst of facing the tragic end of my baseball career and another attack of cancer, I was still trying to be everything I thought the Christian community expected me to be. I tried to put on a good face, say the right words, and do the right things, but it was very difficult because I was hurting so much inside. I was filled with fear—fear of the unknown, of dying, of not being able to provide for my family. I sincerely wanted to be who I thought I should be but to be honest, it just became one more thing I had to do. I was tired. Really tired. In 1991, Barbara Walters asked me on 20/20, “Why did God make you suffer?” The only way I could answer was, “I don’t know. I don’t think He made me suffer, but to be honest with you, that’s a really hard question for me.” I can’t tell you how many Christians wrote me to tell me what my answer should have been that night. Struggling in the fight to be “good enough” and keep up appearances, I reached a breaking point. I didn’t think it would be OK to just be me—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I was afraid that people wouldn’t love the real me, that I would be judged and criticized. Soon I became verbally abusive to my wife and kids. I began playing games with the ones I loved, manipulating them to make me happy. It was one thing that I thought I could control

soon realized that it’s OK to be me. So much of my story—and so many others’ stories—reveals that we really don’t understand who we are and as a result, we allow others to define us. If the influencers in our lives aren’t presenting the message, “God loves you just the way you are” and, “You are a new creature in Christ,” we’re in trouble. But if you get and believe that message, you will be free and empowered by the Holy Spirit to turn into the person that God ultimately created you to be! Who I am today is exactly who I was the day that I first met Jesus, and yet over that period of time, I have been—and still am— maturing into the best version of the person God created me to be. I am fearfully and wonderfully made by God. I am loved by Him even on my worst day. I have the capacity to be full of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control because I’ve embraced the fact that it’s no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me! It’s funny that I worried so much about the things I should have entrusted to God. God gave me a story and with that, He’s provided a living for me. Today I’m able to travel the world, sharing my story with others and encouraging those who are hurting. I was invited back into the Giants organization—the family that loved me so well during my career—as a Community Ambassador. To me, this isn’t work; it’s doing what I love to do! And while I hold the title of “Ambassador” with the Giants, I hold an even greater title as an Ambassador for Christ. What we often need to hear in this life is that even on our worst days, Someone still loves us. Fully believing and embracing this truth is the greatest comeback I’ve ever made. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” —2 Corinthians 5:20 Becky York is the main writer and Community Manager for the Increase ministry.

How Have You Changed Since?

The difference in my life today is simple: Jesus. It’s been an ongoing journey for me to realize that it’s OK to be me. The journey started when I began going to counseling because I no longer wanted to be that man. I loved my wife and kids and didn’t want to hurt them. During 18 months of counseling, I learned a lot about myself and how to communicate more effectively with others. After those 18 months, my wife, Jan, encouraged me to get more counseling specifically to face my anger issues, which I did. I


Focus on Sport / Getty Images



World CHAMPIONS On Purpose

The 2017 Golden State Warriors were built with one purpose, winning a Championship by RAYMOND ST. MARTIN Winning “On Purpose”

It was un—”Believable” when the eighth-seed, “We Believe” Golden State Warriors shocked the NBA and took down the heavily favored Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 NBA Playoffs. It was surprising that the 2014-15 “Strength in Numbers” Warriors won 67 games and went on to win the franchise’s first Championship since the 1974-75 season. Yet, nobody was surprised when this year’s team nearly swept the NBA Playoffs. Perhaps a fitting mantra for this year’s team could have been “On Purpose.” The Warriors were committed to valuing team chemistry over individual stars, and preparing for the post-season over trying to win every regular season game. This team played with great purpose and intentionality every

LEFT: The 2007 Warriors shocked the Top Seeded Dallas Mavericks. ABOVE: “God is Great, God is great, I want to thank all of the chaplains across the NBA for helping us out every night.” - Andre Iguodala, 2015 Finals MVP Interview

step of the way. What began with the signing of All-NBA Forward, Kevin Durant, culminated in a 29-2 run from March 14th until the final buzzer of the NBA Finals. The Warriors lost only two games over the course of three months. Twenty-nine and two was their exact record through the first 31 games of their record breaking 73-win campaign. Furthermore over half of their wins came in the Playoffs against the best competition possible, making it clear that this team raised the bar for post-season performance. Their historic post-season was highlighted by an NBA Record 16-1 Playoff run. The Warriors’ only loss occurred in Game 4 of the Finals, to a Cavaliers team that went 12-1 in blowing through the Eastern Conference. The near sweep of the Cavs and the dominance through the final three months was no accident; it was the fulfillment of a dream over six years in the making.

Together in Turkey

Some believe that the stage for the 2017 Finals was set when LeBron James swatted away Andre Iguodala’s layup and Kyrie Irving sank a step back jumper to win Game 7 of the 2016 Finals. Others, including LeBron himself, think it began with an offseason meeting in the Hamptons between Kevin Durant and the Warriors. However, the true catalyst of the team’s unprecedented resurgence and star-power seemed to begin seven years ago on a different team, on another continent, and when only Steph Curry was a Warrior.



All photos by Ezra Shaw / Getty Images unless otherwise noted.


It’s Gotta Be The Shoes

Kevin Durant hoisting the 2017 Bill Russell Finals MVP Trophy.

As fans, we marvel at players’ highlight dunks, crisp no-look dimes, and long range threes. What we don’t see are the arduous hours and often lonely training they put in to get there. Sometimes, though, the exhausting repetition can plant the seeds of a Super Team. Andre Iguodala (76ers), Steph Curry (Warriors), and Kevin Durant (Thunder) played for the US Team in the 2010 World Championships in Turkey. As committed basketball players, they would return to the gym to shoot around after their games, and as committed followers of Jesus, they would attend chapel together before each game. A bond formed that eventually led to Iguodala joining the Warriors and winning the 2015 Finals MVP, and to Durant joining the team and winning the 2017 Bill Russell Trophy.

Golden State Warriors (1) vs

Top Scorer: Durant 38

Game 2: Golden State 133 Cleveland 113

Top Scorer: Durant 33

Game 3: Golden State 118 Cleveland 113

Top Scorer: James 39

Game 4:Golden State 116 Cleveland 137

Top Scorer: Irving 40

Game 5 Golden State 129 Cleveland 120

Top Scorer: James 41


LEFT: With Romans 8:28 emblazoned on his shoes, Steph Curry set the tone for the Finals in Game One.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) Warriors win series 4-1

Game 1: Golden State 113 Cleveland 91

Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

This Warrior team was not obsessed with triple-doubles, scoring 50, or making the highlights on Sportscenter. On the contrary, this group was laser-focused on working as a team and making each other better along the way. This sense of teamwork, combined with the purposeful way they prepared, can be summarized in the Bible verse Steph Curry inscribed on his shoes before Game 1: Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Although winning in professional sports brings accolades, fame, and wealth, Steph Curry was quick to give all of the credit back to He who deserves all glory, honor, and praise. “Our perspective: being blessed to play on this stage three years in a row. It’s all God,” Curry said as the confetti fell in Oracle Arena, wrapping up their second NBA Championship in three years. While winning is always the desire of every competitor, perhaps this verse written on Curry’s shoe alludes to an even higher desire of his: to know God and live for His purposes, no matter what the outcome. in a world that often seems consumed by ego, hubris, and competition, it is refreshing and compelling to see a group of extremely successful men living their lives focused on His purpose, and succeeding “On Purpose.”

“Our perspective: being blessed to play on this stage three years in a row. It’s all God.” - Stephen Curry

Nathaniel S. Butler / Getty Images SPORTS SPECTRUM


NBA 2017 CONFERENCE FINALS Golden State Warriors (1) vs Game 1: Golden State 113 San Antonio 111 Game 2: Golden State 136 San Antonio 100 Game 3: Golden State 120 San Antonio 108

This series seemed to turn on an injury. Game one saw the San Antonio Spurs run out to a 23 point lead against the Warriors in Oakland. Then, with a 21 Top Scorer: Curry 29 point lead in the third quarter, Team MVP, Kawhi Leonard, who’d already scored 26 points and tallied eight rebounds and three assists, landed on Zaza Pachulia’s Top Scorer: Durant 33 foot and twisted his ankle. The Warriors would immediately rip off an 18-0 run and never look back on the way to winning a thriller in Game one and sweeping Top Scorer: Curry 36 the San Antonio Spurs.

Top Scorer: Curry 40

Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images

Game 4: Golden State 129 San Antonio 115

San Antonio Spurs (5) Warriors win series 4-0

The Pain of Being Swept: After Leonard’s third quarter injury, a 21 point Spurs lead in Game 1 turned into a Warriors four-game sweep.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs

Boston Celtics (3) Cavs win series 4-0 Top Scorer: James 38

Game 2: Cleveland 130 Boston 86

Top Scorer: James 30

Game 3: Cleveland 108 Boston 111

Top Scorer: Irving 29

Game 4: Cleveland 112 Boston 99

Top Scorer: Irving 42

Game 5: Cleveland 135 Boston 102

Top Scorer: James 35

Elsa / Getty Images

Game 1: Cleveland 117 Boston 104


This series saw LeBron James make NBA History. First he passed Michael Jordan into third place on the All-Time NBA Playoff Scoring List and with the final victory in Game 5, he, along with ‘team pastor’ James Jones, became the first players in the modern era to reach the NBA Finals for a seventh straight time. The Celtics fought hard in a riveting comeback, last second win in Game 3, but, without their leader, Isaiah Thomas, who left at halftime of Game 2 with an injury, they were fairly easily eliminated by the Defending NBA Champs.

Isaiah Thomas and LeBron James: Lebron’s history making performances led the Cavs past the Celtics, who finished the series without an injured Isaiah Thomas. SPORTS SPECTRUM


Golden State Warriors (1) vs

Utah Jazz (5) Warriors win series 4-0

Game 1: Golden State 106 Utah Jazz 94

Top Scorer: Curry 22

Game 2: Golden State 115 Utah Jazz 104

Top Scorer: Hayward 33

Game 3: Golden State 102 Utah Jazz 91

Top Scorer: Durant 38

Game 4:Golden State 121 Utah Jazz 95

Top Scorer: Curry 30

San Antonio Spurs (2) vs

Houston Rockets (3) Spurs win series 4-2

Game 1: San Antonio 99 Houston 126

Top Scorer: Ariza 23

Game 2: San Antonio 121 Houston 96

Top Scorer: Leonard 34

Game 3: San Antonio 103 Houston 92

Top Scorer: Harden 43

Game 4:San Antonio 104 Houston 125

Top Scorer: Harden 28

Game 5: San Antonio 110 Houston 107

Top Scorer: Harden 33

Game 6:San Antonio 114 Houston 75

Top Scorer: Aldridge 34

Ronald Cortes / Getty Images



Kawhi Leonard and James Harden: Harden gave it all he had, but Kawhi and the Spurs were too much for the Rockets.

Boston Celtics (1) vs

Washington Wizards (4) Celtics win series 4-3

Game 1: Boston 123 Washington 111

Top Scorer: Thomas 33

Game 2: Boston 129 Washington 119

Top Scorer: Thomas 53

Game 3: Boston 89 Washington 116

Top Scorer: Wall 24

Game 4:Boston 102 Washington 121

Top Scorer: Beal 29

Game 5: Boston 123 Washington 101

Top Scorer: Bradley 29

Game 6:Boston 91

Top Scorer: Beal 33

Washington 92

Game 7: Boston 115 Washington 105

Top Scorer: Beal 38 John Wall: Wall’s last second shot forced a Game 7, but the Wizards could not advance.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs

Toronto Raptors (3) Cavs win series 4-0

Game 1: Cleveland 116 Toronto 105

Top Scorer: James 35

Game 2: Cleveland 125 Toronto 103

Top Scorer: James 39

Game 3: Cleveland 115 Toronto 94

Top Scorer: DeRozan 37

Game 4:Cleveland 109 Toronto 102

Top Scorer: James 35


Elsa / Getty Images




Round One:


Golden State Warriors (1) vs

Portland Trailblazers (8) Warriors win series 4-0

Game 1: Golden State 121 Portland 109

Top Scorer: McCollum 41

Game 2: Golden State 110 Portland 81

Top Scorer: Curry 19

Game 3: Golden State 119 Portland 113

Top Scorer: Curry 34

Game 4:Golden State 128 Portland 103

Top Scorer: Curry 37

San Antonio Spurs (2) vs Game 1: San Antonio 111

Memphis 82

Memphis Grizzlies (7) Spurs win series 4-2 Top Scorer: Leonard/Gasol 32

Game 2: San Antonio 96 Memphis 82

Top Scorer: Leonard 37

Game 3: San Antonio 94 Memphis 105

Top Scorer: Conley 24

Game 4:San Antonio 108 Memphis 110(OT) Top Scorer: Leonard 47 Game 5: San Antonio 116 Memphis 103

Top Scorer: Leonard 28

Game 6:San Antonio 103 Memphis 96

Top Scorer: Leonard 29

Houston Rockets (3) vs

Oklahoma City Thunder (6) Rockets win series 4-1

Game 1: Houston 118 Oklahoma 87

Top Scorer: Harden 37

Game 2: Houston 115 Oklahoma 111

Top Scorer: Westbrook 51

Game 3: Houston 113 Oklahoma 115

Top Scorer: Harden 44

Game 4:Houston 113 Oklahoma 109

Top Scorer: Westbrook 35

Game 5: Houston 105 Oklahoma 99

Top Scorer: Westbrook 47

LA Clippers (4) vs

Utah Jazz (5) Jazz win series 4-3

Game 1: Clippers 85 Utah Jazz 97

Top Scorer: Griffin 26

Game 2: Clippers 99 Utah Jazz 91

Top Scorer: Griffin 24

Game 3: Clippers 111 Utah Jazz 106

Top Scorer: Hayward 40

Game 4:Clippers 98 Utah Jazz 105

Top Scorer: Johnson 28

Game 5:Clippers 92 Utah Jazz 96

Top Scorer: Paul 28

Game 6:Clippers 98 Utah Jazz 93

Top Scorer: Hayward 31

Game 7:Clippers 91

Top Scorer: Hayward 26



Utah Jazz 104

Bob Levey / Getty Images

Russell Westbrook’s triple-doubles were not enough to advance past the Rockets. TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 844-807-7678


Boston Celtics (1) vs

Chicago Bulls (8) Celtics win series 4-2

Game 1: Boston 102

Chicago 106 Top Scorer: Thomas 37

Game 2: Boston 97

Chicago 111

Top Scorer: Butler 22

Game 3: Boston 104

Chicago 87

Top Scorer: Horford/Wade 18

Game 4:Boston 104

Chicago 95

Top Scorer: Thomas/Butler 33

Game 5:Boston 108

Chicago 97

Top Scorer: Wade 26

Game 6:Boston 105

Chicago 83

Top Scorer: Bradley/Butler 23

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs

Indiana Pacers (7) Cavs win series 4-0

Game 1: Cleveland 109 Indiana 108

Top Scorer: James 32

Game 2: Cleveland 117 Indiana 111

Top Scorer: Irving 37

Game 3: Cleveland 119 Indiana 114

Top Scorer: James 41

Game 4:Cleveland 106 Indiana 102

Top Scorer: James 33

Toronto Raptors (3) vs

Milwaukee Bucks (6) Raptors win series 4-2

Game 1: Toronto 83

Milwaukee 97 Top Scorer: Antetokounpo 28

Game 2: Toronto 106

Milwaukee 100 Top Scorer: Antetokounpo 24

Game 3: Toronto 77

Milwaukee 104 Top Scorer: Middleton 20

Game 4:Toronto 87

Milwaukee 76 Top Scorer: DeRozan 33

Game 5: Toronto 118

Milwaukee 93 Top Scorer: Antetokounpo 30

Game 6:Toronto 92

Milwaukee 89 Top Scorer: Antetokounpo 34

Washington Wizards (2) vs

Atlanta Hawks (3) Wizards win series 4-2

Game 1: Wizards 114

Atlanta 107

Top Scorer: Wall 32

Game 2: Wizards 109

Atlanta 101

Top Scorer: Wall 32

Game 3: Wizards 98

Atlanta 116

Top Scorer: Wall/Millsap 29

Game 4:Wizards 101

Atlanta 111

Top Scorer: Beal 32

Game 5:Wizards 103

Atlanta 99

Top Scorer: Schroeder 29

Game 6:Wizards 115

Atlanta 99

Top Scorer: Wall 42


Brian Babineau / Getty Images

Rajon Rondo: Rondo’s injury ended a potential eight seed scare and a 2-0 Bulls Series lead. SPORTS SPECTRUM


Durant Soars to 2017 Finals

MVP 14



“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11 WEB SITE:

Jesse D. Garrabrant / Getty Images






ndy Lopez won’t take credit for his success. He’d rather give it to God. Lopez is one of two coaches in NCAA Division I baseball history to win national championships at two different institutions. He won his first in 1992 when he led Pepperdine to its first and only title in any sport. He won his second in 2012 with the University of Arizona, becoming the coach with the longest gap between titles in collegiate baseball history. “There are a lot of Scriptures that I love, but the one that stays in my heart is Psalm 115:1, which says, ‘Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory,’” Lopez said. “As I look back on what has happened in my life, He gets all the glory.” Lopez never had a resume and he never applied for a job. After graduating from UCLA, where he had been an all-American baseball player, he was asked to be a volunteer high school coach. He worked with a young infielder who was not a starter, but had the desire to work extra on his game. Lopez didn’t know it at the time, but he made an impact on that youngster, whose father was a dentist. One of his father’s patients was the superintendent for an area high school. When the father mentioned Lopez’ work with his son to the superintendent, he asked for Lopez’ phone number so he could offer him the head coaching job. After a successful five years as a high school coach, he was offered the job at Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills, where he regularly defeated Pac-12 schools. That caught the attention of Pepperdine, where he coached for six years, making four NCAA tournaments, including winning the 1992 title. That led to an offer to coach Florida. His team reached No. 1 in the polls, and played in the College World Series twice and the NCAA tournament five times. From there, he was lured away by Arizona, where he coached for the final 14 years of his career. The Wildcats reached the College World Series twice and the NCAA tournament eight times. “I’m constantly floored by His undeserved kindness to Andy Lopez,” Lopez says. “I give glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the things He’s done in my life.” Lopez was born a “good Catholic boy,” the son of Mexican immigrants. He lived in Southern California, where he followed the rules his parents laid out for him. But he didn’t have a relationship with 16


Christ. He wasn’t a bad kid, but he also wasn’t the “fair haired boy” his parents thought he was. When he went away to UCLA to play ball, he lived his life according to his own desires, not those of his parents, or God. Ironically, his sister and his cousin, who were part of the carnal lifestyle that had pulled Lopez away from God, were the ones who led him to a relationship with Jesus. “My cousin preached the Gospel to me in a very kind and loving way,” he said. “Then my sister gave her life to the Lord. “I was an alter boy. I went to Mass six days a week with my mother and grandmother. They made sure I said my rosaries and novenas to Saint Andrew and Saint Jude. I found out later that Saint Jude is the saint in the Roman Catholic church for impossible tasks. They must have known something. “I felt like the Catholic church was where I needed to be. But I was put in a position of holding on to what I had known my whole life, or claiming this new covenant that my cousin and my sister were sharing with me. There was something very different about them. “So I bought a Bible and started reading it. The Lord led me to His grace through the book of Job, particularly verse 13:15 (“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face”). “As Paul said the Jewish faith was the tutor that led him to Christ, the Catholic church was the tutor that led me to my Lord and Savior to Jesus Christ.” Lopez sold out completely to following Christ. Those around him, including those who didn’t share his faith, knew where his priorities were. He never had an assistant coach who was a believer, but he used the opportunity to demonstrate Christ to them. He’s the living embodiment of the idea of not asking God to bless where you’re going, but to send you where He’s blessing. When asked if he would change anything in his coaching career if given the opportunity, he quickly said, “I would read the Bible more, and make my relationship with God strong much quicker than it happened.” Lopez retired from coaching following the 2015 season because of health issues. He is a broadcaster on the Pac-12 Network doing conference baseball games. And he shares his love for Christ wherever he goes. TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 844-807-7678

Arizona Manager Andy Lopez hoists the 2012 College World Series trophy. WEB SITE:

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‘Give me 1s and 3s’ What did Andy Lopez look for in potential recruits? He said recruits are 1s, 2s or 3s. He only wanted 1s and 3s. 1s are players who have “it,” where everybody knows they’re going to be great. They can mash the ball, or throw it in the mid-90s with pinpoint control. It doesn’t take a super recruiter to find those players or a super coach to get them to perform. 3s are guys who know they’re not as good, but they’re willing to work harder than anybody else, just for a chance to play the game. They’re talented, but they’re not as talented as 1s. But they have all the intangibles. “Don’t bring me any 2s. They’re really 3s who think they’re 1s.” WEB SITE:



Teaching the Fundamentals of Character by JOSH BATTLE 20


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n Silicon Valley, it takes a special type of person to not only survive, but to thrive as an industry leader in the business culture there. As President of Worldwide Field Operations with FinancialForce, Joe Fuca has something figured out. Throughout his career, he has compiled over 25 years worth of senior level executive management experience, developing global leadership teams and transforming sales operations within highgrowth companies like McAfee, where he served as a member of the executive leadership team for the $1 billion Consumer Division as well as DocuSign, where he established an infrastructure that significantly accelerated the company’s growth. The high stakes, high pressure, high demand corporate culture of the San Francisco Bay Area takes its toll, burning out many. But Fuca’s not among that number. He’s had practice balancing the pressures and demands of a hectic lifestyle. Any of Joe’s childhood friends in Southern California will tell you he was always on the move, especially in high school. He was a three-sport athlete at Crespi High School in Encino, starring on the football, baseball, and basketball teams. As a standout athlete at Crespi, he earned a football scholarship to California Lutheran University, where he carried on that three-sport tradition. “I went there on a football scholarship, but ended up playing all three sports,” Fuca said. “I played basketball my freshman year and then baseball my sophomore year. Clearly I’m an antsy individual.” “I didn’t make a lot of friends with my coaches,” he laughed. “I’ve always had a drive and love for multiple sports, but after my sophomore year, I realized I needed to focus more and so I did.” It didn’t last long.

“I had been coaching youth sports for a while and I said, ‘Maybe it’s time I go back into the high school world,’ and so I took four kids from our church and added a couple of others and we started The Lakeshow.” “While I was at Cal Lutheran,” Fuca said, “I coached the JV basketball team at a local high school. The next year, I coached the JV team at Thousand Oaks High School. Here I was, 20 years old and head-coaching these teams.” “It was probably not a good thing for a 20-year-old; going to college and head coaching a high school basketball team,” Fuca laughed. While it may not have been the best idea at the time, the experience was nevertheless preparing Fuca for a future in coaching. It would become the foundation of the yet-to-be-realized Lake-


Coaching photos courtesy of Joe Fuca.

show, known now as the “SF Bay Area’s premier AAU basketball program.” “About 14 years ago, I was in our church and we had some really good athletes,” Fuca said. “I had been coaching youth sports for a while and I said, ‘Maybe it’s time I go back into the high school world,’ and so I took four kids from our church and added a couple of others and we started The Lakeshow. Four of the kids were Christian so it was great, we could pray at practice and before games. The youth pastor at the church was my assistant coach, so that was really cool too.” And just like that, a couple of youth group kids with a desire to play basketball began something that would grow in ways Fuca never imagined. Today, The Lakeshow program is made up of several teams each in the 15’s, 16’s, and 17’s age categories. Each team’s roster is built with players who all participate in an invite-only tryout system intended to generate only the “most talented and dedicated players” in a particular age group. The Lakeshow AAU Basketball program boasts “the highest levels of exposure and competition to the Bay Area’s elite players.” The goal, like most AAU programs, is to ultimately get kids on to college rosters with a scholarship. Perhaps you’ve heard a thing or two about AAU and maybe what you know is the negative stuff; AAU has a reputation for shady recruitment deals, exorbitant amounts of money changing hands, over-the-top egos, and coaches who somehow turn a few months of AAU basketball into full-time jobs. The Lakeshow, though, does not follow this model. “There are all kinds of stigmas around the money where people are creating AAU programs and living off them,” Fuca said. “I did it purely as a hobby.” “There are people like us,” Fuca added, “who will raise money and then spend it all on the kids. You’re talking about hotels and food, rental cars, registration for tournaments…. We have somewhere between five and seven teams going during that period, so somewhere between 50 and 70 kids.” “The only rules around AAU are basically, there aren’t many rules,” Fuca said. “But there is a whole other regimented level of AAU that’s NCAA certified. That’s what we do. We try to play in NCAA-sanctioned events so that we can get our kids exposure and put them in a college setting so they can be seen by college coaches,” he added. For Fuca, it’s ultimately all about the kids who—between March 1st and July 30th—call The Lakeshow family. The Lakeshow program was built for them; to provide them the opportunity to compete at a high level, to test themselves against elite competition, and to earn a chance to continue their playing career at the college level. Fuca’s coaching style was being formed well before the idea for The Lakeshow ever occurred to him, even before he was a threesport athlete in college and in high school prior to that. “I went to John Wooden’s camp when I was 11 years old,” he said. “The man spent 20 minutes explaining how to put your



socks on!” “He was an amazing man,” Fuca added. “I’ve read his books and others by Dean Smith and I had some of both coaches’ former players help me the first two years of The Lakeshow. They walked me through some of their plays and sets, because there’s only so much you can read in a book.” But for Fuca, coaching has much deeper purposes; it goes beyond the X’s and O’s, and it’s much more than the plays and sets. “For both Wooden and Smith, coaching is more about being a father-like figure and helping young men with life decisions than it is about the actual play on the court,” Fuca said. “And that’s a big deal because we travel with the kids too. That’s important to me.” “John Wooden was a big deal,” Fuca emphasized. “Not only did I go to his camp, but his big thing was about respect and honor. There’s a whole pyramid of success there that’s such a good life skill, so we try to do that. I want every restaurant owner and every hotel owner to know who we are by the way we respect their people and that all comes back to John Wooden.” There are a lot of positive effects that come with establishing your program on principles of respect and honor—with building a program that closely models family. Elite youth basketball—nowadays, youth sport in general—is too often known for its ego and individualism. The “team-first” attitudes of yesterday are often replaced today by “me-first” attitudes. The culture of sport appears to have shifted and yet Fuca continues to rely on the foundational principles of coaches like Wooden and Smith. “You have to get across the message that playing together and winning is the best thing you can show any college coach that’s recruiting you,” Fuca said. “We were always known as the team that didn’t get the best players; we just got the best young men, and there’s a big difference. We’ve got 150 young men that have been through our program and have received scholarships to college—whether that was Division I, II, or III—and of those 150, they range from kids who might have a shot to play professionally to those that might not.” “I think the whole AAU stigma of individualism and ego…. Because we preach ‘play together, win, and you’ll show your skill,’ we’ve created this unique family environment,” Fuca added. “So now all of a sudden, all these kids are developing lifelong relationships with other Lakeshow kids that they’ve played with. It’s just a by-product of the family nature, and what happens is they all stay connected. Those are by-products of what’s going on within the program that I didn’t foresee. If you let the game come to you and win as a team, all of a sudden, the consequence of that ends up being that you become not only really good teammates, but friends.” The culture of respect doesn’t just end with teammates either. It’s a value that pays dividends at the next level too. “I think how they respect their coach in The Lakeshow ends up being a really good model for how to respect their coach in college,” Fuca said. “College basketball is a very different game, 22


because college coaches don’t necessarily have personal relationships with kids. We usually do because we travel with them. It’s a little more of a big brother or father figure relationship and we try to maintain communication with them when they’re in college. My hope is that their key takeaways are the camaraderie they build with their teammates as well as the respect they maintain for their coach.” Fuca has recently—perhaps even against his nature—started to scale back. He’s handed The Lakeshow program over to his oldest son, Joey, an excellent basketball player in his own right. Joey was an NCS Champion in 2005 at San Ramon Valley High School, then went on to become an NAIA All-American at Master’s University before spending two seasons playing professionally in Germany. Now, the elder Fuca spends much of his time serving on the senior team, allowing Joey and some younger coaches to take the program’s reins. Now, he often finds himself coaching the coaches. “I’ve told my coaches that you’ve got to teach principles and

“I’ve told my coaches that you’ve got to teach principles and fundamentals and then let the players perform on the court... Don’t over-coach them because that’s when kids lose their creativity and innovation.” fundamentals and then let the players perform on the court,” Fuca said. “Don’t over-coach them because that’s when kids lose their creativity and innovation.” “Really, the key thing is to coach them up and let them play and compete,” he added. “Don’t over-do it when it comes to competing for them because the kids have to perform. You can’t hold their hand.” Joe Fuca never realized just how big The Lakeshow would become. He certainly had no idea back at Cal Lutheran that he’d one day found a premier AAU basketball program. He was just a 20-year-old staying busy by doing something he loved. But he understands that something special has occurred over the past 14 years; it’s something in which he takes the right kind of pride. “I’m most proud of the relationships that we’ve built,” Fuca said. “Over this 14-year period, so many families have stayed connected to the program, and I’m most proud when those families still come to games and continue to support the program. There’s probably 25 percent of the kids in our program now that came here on references from families that had kids play in the program previously. It’s a really neat thing that those references come from the families. That makes me really proud.” And just like that, the family keeps growing.


“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” -Colossians 3:23


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TRUST GOD... PERIOD. TNT Sports personality Ernie Johnson talks faith, family, and on-air evangelizing in this one-on-one interview.



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rnie Johnson is a familiar face to sports fans. He hosts TNT’s Inside the NBA, is the lead sportscaster for Major League Baseball on TBS, and jointly covers March Madness for the NCAA. Each week during the NBA season, he keeps Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal in line. Both on and offscreen, his life is driven by his faith, family, and love for people. In his new book, Unscripted: The Unpredictable Moments That Make Life Extraordinary, Ernie recalls growing up the son of a baseball play-by-play announcer (Ernie Johnson Sr.), his 40-year journey in sports, and looking at the moments so far that have defined him as a man, a husband, and a father. Ernie talks openly in the book about how he adopted the motto “Trust God . . . Period.” As the father of six children, Johnson has walked through many different seasons of life, some of them extremely challenging. He battled cancer from 2003-2006 and beat it. He and his wife Cheryl have four adopted children, including Michael, who was born with a progressive form of muscular dystrophy and lives on a ventilator in his parents’ home. Recently, I sat down with Ernie Johnson to discuss his faith, his family, and using his platform to share Jesus with others. JASON: It wasn’t until you were 41 years old that your walk with the Lord truly began. What was it that opened your eyes to all that God had for you? ERNIE: My thought process was, ‘God had nothing to do with any of this. My job, my family, all of it.’ But in 1997, we decided to start looking for a church and my wife and I decided to start giving the kids some spiritual grounding. We were going to do this ‘for them.’ And the first time I went into the church, I was pierced by the preaching I heard from Kevin Myers, the pastor. I was having an identity crisis. I was identified by what I did—a sportscaster. But I had lunch with Kevin at an O’Charley’s Restaurant and I told him, ‘God’s messing with me,’ and that moment was when Kevin and I joined hands and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. My life became Christ-centered and not me-centered. It was the greatest day of my life. JASON: You’ve adopted 4 children including Michael, whose challenges in just basic survival are significant. What does adoption mean to you? ERNIE: On the surface it means giving somebody a second chance. It means everyone has value. If we look outside of our own family and look for others that we can help, that’s been the avenue for us over the course of 35 years of marriage. How can we reach out and make a difference? We’re all wired so differently. For us, it’s been adoption. Taking care of Michael puts me in a great area of servanthood. When you’re doing everything for a child who can do nothing on his own, you can’t think of yourself. And I need that. It’s good for me. I wake up everyday and see a miracle in Michael. JASON: I want to ask you about the moments after the 2016 election. You shared your thoughts with Kenny and Shaq on the air. I believe you seized that moment in pointing people back to Jesus. I think you did a wonderful job. Were you aware of the magnitude and impact your words would have that night WEB SITE:

ERNIE: No. And Charles Barkley gets a lot of credit for this. People expect us to weigh in on things that the world is talking about. Earlier that day, regarding the election, I was wrestling in my office about what I was going to say. I didn’t really script anything, I kind of just had a few bullet points and knew where I wanted to go. I viewed that just like I view everything in my life, through the lens of my faith. The faith is part of everything that I do. I was totally comfortable with being brutally honest. My twitter blew up. It was incredible. Anytime you mention Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Jesus Christ in the same two minutes, people are going to talk. JASON: What was the reaction after what you said? Were there any conversations with employees based on what you said? ERNIE: Kenny Smith gave me a high-five on the air. A lot of folks behind the scenes came up to me and said they appreciated what I said and that meant the world. What’s cool—months later, I’ll be in the airport and people will still come up to me and say ‘I saw what you said on the election; thanks.’ JASON: How do you live out your faith in the workplace? ERNIE: I don’t make a conscious effort on how I’m going to live out my faith. I’m just going to live. I don’t think you can force it. But you have to be aware. You have to be intentional about it when the situation arises. Whether that’s comforting someone who is going through a tough time, or just being available and not tied up with what you have to do. Being available to people when they just need someone to pay attention to them and talk to them for five minutes. I’m just trying to model what it means to be a follower of Christ. If folks can see that, then I’ve done my job. JASON: What is God teaching you right now? ERNIE: I’m always learning patience and humility. We work in a profession, Jason, that wants you to elevate yourself. Wants you to rise up the ladder and get praise from social media. It’s all about you and your agenda. God is teaching me to not pay attention to that. Pay attention to other folks. Look outside of yourself. Who am I going to serve today? Not what’s in it for me.



Hand to Hand

transformation Three NFL couples travel to Haiti with Food For The Hungry, and experience as much transformation inside as they help create outside. by Becky York



Photos courtesy of Milam Beyers.


ear the end of their break after the 2016 season, three NFL athletes chose to spend the last of their free time fulfilling a powerful vision—a vision to fight poverty around the world. United in one mission, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Coty Sensabaugh and his wife Dominique, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas and his wife Gloria, and NFL safety Jonathan Meeks and his fiancée Anitra Hall set out to enlarge their global footprint in the name of Christ. Partnering with Food for the Hungry, these athletes wanted to see and experience the work that was being accomplished. “Dominique and I had done international mission work before and it changed us,” Coty explains. “Once you experience something like that, you can’t ignore the need. You want to keep going and hopefully make a difference.” Food for the Hungry’s Manager of Sports Partnerships, Milam Byers, is the key connection for athletes who want to link arms with this organization in eradicating all forms of human poverty. “We are really intentional about the people that we serve, going to the areas of the world where no one else is going to help,” says Milam. “From the moment we touch the ground in a given area, we have a long-term development plan for that community—one not of enablement but of empowerment. We help the local people put their own sweat, leadership, and dignity into developing their community so that they can be the change that they need.” WEB SITE:

Walking alongside communities on their home turf, Food for the Hungry brings together their team, volunteers, and locals to help a whole impoverished people group provide for themselves sustainably for generations to come. In March 2016, the three couples decided they didn’t want to give just their money: they wanted to invest their time, energy, and presence in the places where the work was being done. “Giving of your time is important,” says Dominique. “We enjoy going and seeing with our eyes and touching with our hands. It’s hard to understand what others are going through if we don’t experience it for ourselves.” With athletes eager to hit the ground running, Milam began organizing a trip to help them grasp how powerful an impact they

“When Hurricane Matthew hit, there were a lot of messages in the media and news to ‘Pray for Haiti,’…But once people stop talking about it, we all forget. We can’t forget about these people. Where projects are started, we need to continue to raise awareness…”

could have. “When these athletes said they wanted to serve and experience the work they had been supporting, I asked them what area of poverty they wanted to focus on,” explains Milam. “We really want to make these vision trips about something our partners are passionate about—something specific to a region or cause of focus, such as building educational programs, fighting human trafficking, providing clean water, etc.” After spending time in prayer and discussion with his wife or fiancée, each athlete independently came back to Milam with a desire to serve the people of Haiti. “When Hurricane Matthew hit, there were a lot of messages in the media and news to ‘Pray for Haiti,’” Dominique recalls. “But once people stop talking about it, we all forget. We can’t forget about these people. Where projects are started, we need to continue to raise awareness, serve the people who are suffering, and uplift this country in need.” “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” —Galatians 6:2 After a short flight, which underlined the nearness of the needs, the team landed on the beautiful yet devastated island of Haiti, where their greatest expectations of abject poverty would be surpassed. “Everything about life in Haiti is hard,” Milam relates, heartbroken for the povertystricken land. “The landscape, the lack of water, the poverty, the natural disasters that occur, the spiritual climate….But there’s still an underlying thread of the hope and dreams these people have for a future where things SPORTS SPECTRUM


would be different.” For Coty, the enormity of the destitution came to life when he witnessed firsthand the daily life of a Haitian family. “I was watching as a woman went to a stream to wash her family’s clothes,” he remembers. “From the same dirty stream where she washed her clothes, the goats and horses were drinking, and soon, a little boy. This scene broke my heart.” It’s not an uncommon one in Haiti. In fact, they soon realized that these women and children walked three or four hours each day just to get water—dirty water, which they drank, bathed in, and used to launder their clothes. “The life of a woman is so hard in this country,” Dominique reflects. “Most of us cannot fathom walking anywhere for water each day, not having floors in your home, barely having walls to hold up a roof, and animals and children drinking from the same water source. Young girls cannot go to school because they spend their whole day retrieving water so that they can wash clothes—that’s their whole day! And since they cannot attend school, the cycle of poverty just continues.” As Milam and his team showed the athletes the work they were doing to create clean water sources, new hope and urgency to see this mission thrive began to well up in the three couples. But they weren’t there just to solve a tangible problem; they wanted to share the love of Christ with the people they were serving. “This was the poorest country (monetarily) and the most abject poverty we had ever encountered, but it’s also such a rich culture in many respects,” Dominique explains, reveling in the mystery. “We learned a little Haitian Creole so that we could communicate and as soon as we said hello, it really sparked interest and the people immediately loved us and we loved them.” “In our country, we have so much and yet we still worry and complain,” Coty adds mournfully. “But seeing the joy that these people have amidst such poverty negates most of the ‘problems’ that we deal with on a day to day basis.” Shaken by what they saw and the severe

needs of a country so close to home, the fire of the athletes’ passion to fight against poverty had gasoline poured on it. When they arrived back in the States, each couple set up a web page of their own to help raise funds to support the work that Food for the Hungry is doing around the world. Now they are eager to help others join the fight. Check out the Sensabaughs’ page here: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” —Proverbs 31:8 With the same heart afire and looking for others to set alight, Milam continues to grow partnerships, bringing other athletes to places stuck in a generational cycle of extreme need. Seeing the same scenes again and again hasn’t inured him to the gravity of it all; he’s still continually humbled by the depth of poverty that persists.

“We are all God’s people and we can all help each other… Whether you have all the resources in the world, or none. We can bless each other if we truly make an effort to spend time together, to truly know one another.” “Spending time with impoverished people never fails to clarify things for me,” he acknowledges. “We’re often clouded by materialism and our own expectations in life, but when that’s all stripped away, we are finally able to see people, communities, ourselves, and God the way He created it to be. It’s then that we experience God doing incredible things in the midst of suffering. These moments cause us to question where we draw our hope from.” Once the couples experienced the impoverished state of the Haitian people, the

devastation suddenly did not seem to be a distant problem—one that they could keep at arm’s length. They are now change agents in God’s grace. “We are all God’s people and we can all help each other,” Coty declares. “Whether you have all the resources in the world, or none. We can bless each other if we truly make an effort to spend time together, to truly know one another. You never know how you can bless somebody—or be blessed by somebody—until you take a step.” “The purpose of that trip was to show these couples the need in these communities, but also that there is hope in the midst of such a great need,” Milam says. “I like to think of these vision trips as hand-to-hand transformation because it’s not only the individuals who are suffering from poverty who are impacted by these trips, the athletes are changed forever as well. There is great joy, inspiration, and hope in the things happening here that are beyond us.” “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” —Hebrews 6:10 “We know we’re helping people,” Dominique says. “But really they’re helping us more. They help us realize what’s truly important—they help us find our purpose in life, they help us serve the way Christ served, and they help us realize that materialistic things mean nothing.” Food for the Hungry often goes where no one else is working—the places on the map that are most overlooked—so that they can be a voice for the voiceless. One community at a time, they seek to be the change. “The issues we see throughout the developing world seem insurmountable,” Milam admits. “But if we take one step at a time, we can see one community changed. We can do something. When we’re able to see the cause and solution of poverty, we can help create the transformation for them—not only for their physical well-being but for their souls and minds as well. We may not be able to fix it all, but we can be a part of something.”

Food for the Hungry is a Christian relief organization that provides life-changing resources such as clean water, medical aid, food, education and vocational training to all people in the midst of extreme poverty. To learn more, visit:





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h e Tea t r GOutdoors 30


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Connect to our Creator in His Creation These are some of our favorite places across the country to commune with God while surrounded by His creation. We hope you’ll visit one or more!


Mount of the Holy Cross, CO


Yosemite National Park, CA Horsetooth Mountain Park, CO RAGBRAI, bike ride across Iowa, IA Santa Fe, NM


Bushkill Falls, park in Park County, PA



The Stone Fort & Rock Town, Chattanooga, TN

Dardanelles, CA Yosemite National Park, CA Horsetooth Mountain Park, CO Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO Mount of the Holy Cross, CO Nualolo Trail, Kauai, HI Sky Pond Hike, Estes Park, CO Angel’s Landing Hike, Zion National Park, UT Sessions Woods, Burlington, CT Cumberland Island National Seashore, St. Mary’s, GA Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, UT Gold Hill, OR Bushkill Falls, Pike County, PA Columbia River Gorge, between WA and OR Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons National Park, Jackson Hole, WY




Yosemite National Park, CA Cumberland Island National Seashore, St. Mary’s, GA Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons National Park, Jackson Hole, WY


Cumberland Island National Seashore, St. Mary’s, GA Bushkill Falls, Pike County, PA

Maya Karkalicheva / Getty Images


Rock Climbing

Horsetooth Mountain Park, CO The Monastery, Estes Park, CO Red River Gorge, KY Smith’s Rock, OR The Stone Fort & Rock Town, Chattanooga, TN

West Southwest Southeast Midwest Northeast

Kayaking/White Water Rafting Waterford, ME Nantahala River, Bryson City, NC WEB SITE:

Running Santa Fe, NM

Trail Running Snorkeling/Scuba diving

Flagstaff, AZ Huddart Park, Woodside, CA Mammoth Lakes, CA

Key Largo, FL


Midnight Hole, Big Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC & TN


Columbia River Gorge, between WA and OR

Waterskiing Waterford, ME

Wakeboarding Waterford, ME


Yosemite National Park, CA Sessions Woods, Burlington, CO



THIS ROCK was meant to be CLIMBED Paige Claassen discusses her journey to becoming a pro rock climber, and her foundation on the Rock that makes by Aliese Willard her fearless.





Rich Crowder



his is the story of a little girl, big rocks, and Namibian table grapes. The little girl was Paige Claassen, who at age nine moved with her family to Estes Park, Colorado, eighteen years ago. Hoping to build her confidence and lessen her shyness, her parents encouraged her to try a broad range of classic after-school activities. None of them worked out. “We put her in the swimming program,” Anna Claassen, Paige’s mother said in Episode 3 of the Lead Now Tour video series. “At the first swim meet, it was absolutely the most painful thing I think I had ever seen in my life, because she was the worst one there. And we left thinking, that was just terrible, we have to find something else for her to do!” Soccer went just as badly, and her lessons on the saxophone and piano proved dissonant. The turning point came when her parents saw an ad in the local paper about an after school rock climbing program. As soon as she entered the climbing gym, the little girl had found her place. “I just loved it. It clicked right away,” Paige said. “I wasn’t afraid, and it was just my zone from the very beginning. Climbing is a very independent sport. Your own success or struggles are a direct result of how hard you work. I loved that I could go into the gym—which is basically a giant playground—use all of [my] energy and get super tired and just play.” As Paige grew and continued to train at the gym, she entered indoor climbing competitions, and racked up experience, awards, and increased notoriety. Sponsorships from top outdoor brands Marmot and La Sportiva followed as Paige progressed in the competitive scene and began excelling outdoors. By age 19, she transitioned fully to climbing outdoors, ascending some of the most difficult, rarely completed routes in the world as she worked toward obtaining a marketing degree at the University of Colorado. Upon graduating college in 2012, she was considered one of the best female sport climbers in the world. Determined to use her climbing abilities to make a difference, Paige embarked on the nine month Lead Now Tour in 2013, a Marmotsponsored climbing tour that sent her to nine different countries to climb challenging routes, and raise awareness and funds for nonprofit organizations around the world. By the end of the tour, Paige had raised over $20,000 and completed seven 5.14 graded routes. Now living part-time in South Africa with her husband, Arjan de Kock, we caught up with Paige to hear about her latest endeavors, connecting with God outdoors, and how farming table grapes in Namibia led to her forming her own non-profit. ALIESE: First things first: I saw that you were recently injured while bouldering. How did that happen? PAIGE: We were bouldering in Fontainebleau (France), and I was way too high. Normally I’m the person who bails because I get scared, but I was like, ‘For once I’m going to build confidence and go for it, even though I’m going to fall off the top of this really high boulder.’ And I fell. I fell straight down, and my ankle rolled a bit, and it tore the ligaments. And it’s ended up being a much longer recovery than I expected. Which is frustrating when you’re used to being active, but I’m just taking it day by day and trying to be patient, because I know it could have been a lot worse. I probably fell from about 20 feet. I don’t think I’ll being bouldering anything high for a long time!



Arjan de Kock


ALIESE: Once you’re healed, how do you decide what’s going to be the next climbing objective? PAIGE: I have a list in my head at this point in my career of objectives that I’d still like to tick off of my list, and places I’d like to go. There’s the exploring side of it where you go check out new places and new zones, and sample what’s there. And after you do some of that, you have unfinished projects that you want to go back to. And that’s where I’m at. I have a few new places that I’d like to go, but several existing projects that I’d like to go back and clean up. Stay tuned! ALIESE: Pro climbing is a demanding lifestyle; between the planning, training, and actual sending of routes, you’re a busy girl. What in your opinion is the most challenging aspect of being a professional rock climber? PAIGE: The hardest thing is that you’re expected to be motivated and at your best 100 percent of the time, and that’s just not how it works for anyone. If you look at most professional athletes, you’ll read about highlights, and then they’ll kind of disappear for a couple of months, and then come back and do a bunch of cool stuff and then disappear again. That’s because life goes in waves, no matter what level you’re on, and that’s important to remember. You’ll have these moments of really cool achievements, but they’re followed by plateaus, or just feeling not at the top of your game, and that’s OK. We all go through that. Your body and mind just need a break to recover after you really push yourself in that way. The mental balance, I think, is the most difficult and the most important as well. ALIESE: Good point. How do you stay mentally tough on a difficult route? PAIGE: That’s always been my favorite part of climbing, is choosing (to climb) something that feels totally impossible, and that you can’t necessarily do most of the moves on when you first walk up (to the route). Once I say out loud that I’m going to do it, then I know that I’m not giving up. And I’ll keep trying until I finish it. Normally that’s a few weeks, maybe a few months. But at times it’s been a few years. I think my longest project was about five years. Climbing is one of those things where if you invest enough time in something it just pulls you in and you can’t give it up. ALIESE: I don’t think many people would have the patience to climb the same route for five years! What draws you to climbing, and what do you love most about it? PAIGE: Being outside with the people you love. Climbing takes you to really unique places that you probably wouldn’t go see without climbing objectives, and you meet really cool people. You’re out in God’s creation, and it puts you in the moment where you enjoy what you have there. You’re not looking to the future, or what happened in the day before. It’s a great lesson for me because I always like to have a plan and look ahead and think of what’s next. ALIESE: You’ve been candid in discussing your Christian beliefs with the media; can you tell me about your faith story? PAIGE: I was fortunate to grow up in a home where my parents were both Christians themselves and took my brother and I to church. It was always a positive experience; it was WEB SITE:

never like being harped on and forced into something that I didn’t understand. I got to ask questions and learn and be around people who are supportive. ALIESE: What was your journey in accepting Christ? PAIGE: I definitely went through a phase where I had to find Christ for myself, rather than just being told that’s what I should believe. I did go through that period of doubt of “Is that what I believe for myself rather than just what my parents told me?” I came out on the end where this is what I believe and this is my faith, and it’s my own. I can share that with my family and the people around me, and my husband, and it’s a really important part of my life, and I think that God has guided me everywhere I am and has brought me to where I am today. ALIESE: Do you ever feel that you connect with God more when you’re outside? PAIGE: Yeah definitely! I think it’s easier to connect with God when you’re outside rather than under a roof. Everyone has their different approach, but to stand in these places where you’re like, “Oh my gosh, how does this exist? Even this rock looks like it was meant to be climbed!” I think that ties into my life in climbing; when you’re outdoors in these amazing places, to know Who created all of it has always been a big thing for me. God isn’t just in church; He’s everywhere. ALIESE: Can you think of ways that God has made Himself evident in your life? PAIGE: To me, looking back, it seems like a really clear path of God putting different obstacles but also opportunities in my life that have led me to where I am now. I know He put climbing in my life for many reasons, so one of them that’s pretty obvious right now is that I was able to meet my husband through rock climbing. Through a series of trips and occurrences and opportunities, I was led to meet someone on the totally opposite side of the world who shares the sport that I love but also shares my faith, and that’s something that’s not so common in the climbing world. It couldn’t have come from anywhere but God. There isn’t any other explanation than that for me. ALIESE: How does your faith and sharing it intersect with climbing? PAIGE: People always ask if I was judged or put down a lot because of my faith, but that’s one of the things I have to appreciate about climbing: Climbers are very open and accepting, and it’s a very eclectic bunch of people from all different walks of life and beliefs. Although only a few people I see in the pro climbing community share my faith, I’ve never been ridiculed—at least not to my face—about it. People can ask questions if they want, but I don’t want to push it in anyone’s face. And that’s my personal approach. I like to lead by example, and to seek out whenever God gives me Photo courtesy of Paige Claasen.



the opportunity (to share), and it enables people to ask questions. ALIESE: I understand you formed a non-profit organization in 2016. Can you tell me how that came about? PAIGE: My husband manages and farms table grapes in Namibia. My first few seasons working with him I just saw the unmet need, and how hard life is up there. It’s very remote, and there are not very many resources. People are living in reed shacks in 120 degree heat with dust storms. It’s rough. There’s not a lot of government support, so private support is really all they get. I wanted to start my own organization to get funding over there for education specifically. I really believe that’s the only way out of poverty. We work to give kids access to education, so they can lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Some projects have been remodeling schools, providing school supplies and food and teacher salaries, and just trying to uplift both existing institutions and create new ones. The kids need a safe, productive environment where they can chase after opportunities other than manual labor, which is one of the only existing opportunities that they have. There are faith aspects (to the nonprofit) and that’s key for me. God is definitely guiding the work we do and that’s the only place I can look to for guidance, because I’m learning as I go. ALIESE: How would you encourage people who are interested in climbing, or just starting out? PAIGE: Rock climbing is so diverse—you can climb outside, inside, in many different styles, and competitively or non-competitively. Don’t feel like you have to chase after a specific aspect of climbing. Just go out there and do what you enjoy. Find people who are supportive and fun to be with who can push you and you can push them. I think one of the coolest things about climbing is that you don’t have to climb with someone who is at your level. There’s so much to learn from people who are both above and at lower levels than you. That’s definitely something I appreciate. Climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.



Arjan de Kock


Rock Climbing Primer

Interested in rock climbing? Here’s what you need to know, from types of rock climbing to the necessary gear. TYPES OF CLIMBING



Rock climbing on shorter routes (typically less than 20 feet tall) without a rope, and with a crash pad beneath the climber to cushion falls. Practiced both in the gym, and on low features outdoors.

If you haven’t climbed before, it’s usually best to start in a climbing gym. Much of the equipment, such as shoes and harnesses, can also be rented at the gym. For Indoor Climbing at a Gym, you’ll need:



Practiced in both indoor and outdoor climbing, top rope involves climbers tied into a rope that’s anchored at the top of a route. A belayer tightens or loosens the rope as the climber scales the wall.


Special snug-fitting shoes are mandatory for the sport. Climbing shoes start at about $40 for a basic pair, and can go up to $200 for the fancy ones.

Outdoor rock climbing where climbers clip the rope as they climb to fixed anchors and bolts that are permanently attached to the rock, and serve as protection from falls. Paige Claassen’s favorite type of climbing.




Outdoor climbing with no fixed route, where climbers place gear into natural features of the rock, like cracks, as they climb.


A style of climbing where the climber’s weight primarily rests on gear the whole way up, rather than trying to grab the rock.


Climbing without any sort of rope or protection. One fall, and you’re toast. We wouldn’t recommend this.

Chalk helps dry moisture on the hands and improve grip on the rock. Powdered chalk and a bag ranges from $10-$40. A good harness ranges from $40-$150, and a belay device starts at $20 and can go up to $150. Yes, they’re a little pricey, but we’re talking about equipment that’s suspending you above ground and preventing falls. Worth the investment.


Trim your talons! Long nails will interfere with your grip on the rock, and are likely to get broken (ouch).




A thick pad designed to cushion a climber from short falls while bouldering. If you plan on bouldering outdoors, you’ll need one.

you’ll need all of the indoor equipment listed above, and: Between falling rocks and the potential for short falls while on belay, you’ll want one to protect your noggin. Helmet prices range between $40-$200.


The length of rope will depend on what type of climbing you’re doing. They’re some of the priciest climbing equipment, and with good reason: a well-made rope needs to be able to safely hold all of your body weight, and catch you in a fall. Ropes start at $80, and top $700 on the high-end.



crags have pre-determined routes with ratings of difficulty. Consult a guidebook or research online before you head out.


this will depend on the type of climbing (see Sport and Trad in “Types of Climbing”). In general, carabiners (“CARE-a-bee-ners”) and quickdraws are necessary for almost all outdoor climbing. Carabiners range in price form $3-$60, and quickdraws start at $10 and can go up to $100 for a pack of 6. Trad climbing requires more equipment and a greater variety: Cams, nuts, and mountaineering equipment in addition to everything else. Consult an expert on this stuff.


There’s a reason you don’t see elite climbers wearing shorts—your knees will get torn up. You also won’t see them wearing nice clothing. Now is the time to pull out the old athletic capris or pants with holes in them. They’ll get roughed up on the rock anyway.


One of the best ways to learn how to climb is to make friends with more mature climbers. They’ll have advice on different moves and navigating routes, along with a bunch of that expensive gear. When you’re on belay, your life is literally in their hands; they’d better know what they’re doing! WEB SITE:



BECAUSE I HAVE TO How An Encounter With A Stranger Answered Todd Harbour’s Prayer by Jim Irish 40



n July 11, 1981 at Bislett Stadium in Oslo, Norway, before 12,822 enthusiastic track spectators and a live ABC Wide World of Sports broadcast in the United States, Todd Harbour ran into history. Harbour, then a 22-year-old Baylor University student with a thoroughbred’s 5-foot-10, 133-pound build, finished fifth in the mile against most the of the world’s greatest middle-distance runners at the time. His time of 3 minutes, 50.34 seconds eclipsed Jim Ryun’s American collegiate record of 3:51.1 in 1967. To this day, Harbour remains the collegiate record holder, although some dispute it because it occurred after the NCAA championships. Harbour almost didn’t compete in the race dubbed the “Dream Mile.” Despite having finished second in the NCAA outdoors 1,500 a month earlier, he had not been invited to compete at the Oslo meet. But Carl Lewis, the future Olympic gold medalist in the 100, and Oregon distance-running great Billy McChesney intervened on his behalf, telling the meet director that they wouldn’t compete unless Harbour was included. Faced with the dismal prospect of losing two world-class athletes, the meet director relented. Harbour was in. The night before the race, fear swept over him. “My prayer was, ‘God, just don’t let me finish last,’” says Harbour, seated in his office as head coach of track and cross-country at Baylor’s facility in Waco, Texas. But the fear lifted on race day. “I was so relaxed because the Holy Spirit had spoken to me: ‘You will run well. Don’t worry about it,’” he says. “I had a strange confidence that I was going to run fast.” Harbour toed the line against a Who’s Who of milers: Britain’s Steve Ovett, Olympic gold medalist and current world record holder; New Zealand’s John Walker, Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder; Britain’s Steve Cram, future world record holder; Steve Scott, American record holder; and Ireland’s Eamonn Coghlan, world indoor record holder. Only Britain’s Sebastian Coe, who earlier that evening had broken his own 1,000-meter record, was missing from the race. Harbour de-


scribed the field as “better than an Olympic final.” At the gun, Harbour sprinted behind Ovett. He was third at 200 yards but was soon passed by the entire field. “I think I panicked,” he says. “This was set up to be pretty fast. Next thing I knew, everybody passed me before I could jump in and stop the bleeding.” But he stayed with the leaders through three laps and passed two dying runners with 350 and 150 yards remaining. “The last 100 I was flying,” he says. “I was bringing people back like crazy. Ovett wasn’t that far ahead, but I had given him too much.”

“I was so relaxed because the Holy Spirit had spoken to me: ‘You will run well. Don’t worry about it,’” he says. “I had a strange confidence that I was going to run fast.” His blazing final quarter mile in 56.34 seconds propelled him past five runners. Ovett was first in 3:49.24, less than a second off his world record. The race broke new territory as the first seven finishers were all timed under 3:51. In one fell swoop, Harbour asserted himself among the world’s elite middle distance runners. In 1982, he would achieve a No. 9 ranking in the world in the 1,500/mile. Harbour inherited his athleticism from his father, Elmer, a standout track athlete at Pittsburg State in Kansas. Elmer, whose nickname was “Moe,” ran the equivalent of 47.9 in the 400 in the early 1950s and finished third in the conference meet in the quarter mile as a senior. When Harbour was 10, Elmer moved the family from Muncie, Kansas to Port Isabel, a small coastal town on the southern tip of Texas. Elmer was looking for a fresh start; his wife, Barbara, was struggling with alcoholism and had been in rehab twice. Elmer landed a coaching job in the school district and moved up the ranks. He was promoted to head varsity football and track coach in 1976, Todd’s senior year. That season, Port Isabel won its first state playoff contest in school history and went 111. Playing for his father, Harbour was a first-team, all-district selection at wide receiver. Although Harbour excelled in football, he was far more gifted in track. He won the half mile in the Class 2A state meet his junior and senior years, with a 1:51.7 in the 800 as a senior in 1977. Baylor head coach Clyde Hart was in hot pursuit. In June, at the Golden West Invitational meet in California, which attracted the nation’s best seniors, Harbour won the 800 in 1:49.4. “This kid was going to be successful; it was one of those feelings you have,” says Hart, whom Harbour replaced in 2005 as Baylor’s head coach. “He was very competitive. You

Todd Harbour (left) receives the baton in a relay for Baylor University. ABOVE: Harbour (left) finishing a race.

All photos provided by Jim Irish.



could see that he did not like to lose. He had outstanding character.” The summer after high school graduation, Harbour and two football teammates were sitting in Harbour’s Datsun pickup truck one evening with a six-pack of beer. They heard an announcement on the radio about an evangelistic crusade that evening in Harlingen, a nearby town. Harbour didn’t know what a crusade was. He had never attended church growing up. “I said, ‘Let’s go hear. We’ve got nothing better to do.’” They drove to Harlingen, where about 2,000 had gathered in the high school stadium to listen to evangelist James Robison. Harbour recalls Robison saying that “sin separates us from God. Many of you think you’re Christians, but you’re not.” At that moment, Harbour realized he wasn’t a Christian; he hadn’t placed his trust in Jesus Christ. “If you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?” Robison asked. Harbour wasn’t sure. When Robison invited any and all to come forward and receive Christ, “I was the first one out of my seat,” Harbour remembers. “I didn’t look around to see if anyone else was moving.” The following summer, after Harbour’s freshman year at Baylor, he lost his mother to complications from the alcoholism she had continued to battle. She was just 48, and had become a Christian in the last year of her life. After his breakthrough race in Oslo, Norway, Harbour received many invitations to speak about his faith in Jesus Christ. He enthusiastically accepted as many as possible. But it was a chance encounter with an individual some years ago that left an indelible mark. On a night in Boulder, Colorado, where coach Harbour was with the Baylor team for the Big 12 Conference track meet, he’d been awakened by an intense dream. “I was swimming across a river, and two big water moccasins started chasing me like the scene in Lonesome Dove,” he says. “I made it to the bank and got out of the water. They were right behind me. I grabbed a machete lying on the bank. As soon as they were out of the water, I chopped their heads off.” Unable to return to sleep, Harbour rose and went for an early morning walk outside the hotel. He admired the beauty of the mountains and asked God to restore “that fire, that passion to share Christ with others.” As he prayed, a guy approached him on a bicycle and asked, “Do you know where this man of God is? Are you a man of God?” “Well, I hope I am,” Harbour replied. “What about you?” 42



“Do you know where this man of God is? Are you a man of God?” “I’ve committed the unpardonable sin,” the man answered. Inviting him to talk about it, Harbour learned his name was Brandon, and for the next hour Harbour listened to his story. Four months earlier, Brandon had been released from prison after 18 years. His ex-wife and children lived in Amarillo, Texas, but she refused to allow him to see them. He was homeless and addicted to alcohol and drugs. Harbour wept as he heard the tragic story. Every 10 minutes Brandon asked Harbour, “Do you have faith?” Then he would continue. “You know, I’m gonna die,” Brandon revealed at one point. “I’ve got cirrhosis. Doctors say I’ve probably got less than a month to live.” He wanted Harbour to pray for him. “I’m not really thinking I want God to heal me,” he said. “Before I die, I want to be free from these addictions. That’s all I want.” Harbour knew how destructive addictions were. He told Brandon his mother had died from alcohol abuse. He told him about the dream he’d had in which he killed two snakes. “My faith welled up inside of me,” Harbour says. “I hadn’t prayed for deliverance in a long time.” He placed his hands on Brandon’s head and prayed. “He said it was like electricity went through him,” Harbour recalls. “He wept.” Before leaving, Harbour gave Brandon his business card and invited him to Baylor’s chapel service at the hotel the next morning, a Sunday. “He never showed up,” Harbour says, his voice breaking. “I went looking for him; never did find him. I hope to see him someday in Heaven.” The encounter with Brandon emboldened him further about sharing his faith. “I was humbled to be there, to be a mouthpiece…,” Harbour says. “If people had kept it secret— what Jesus did, what they had seen—how would the world know that He died for us and that He rose again and lives today, and He wants to live in us? People say, ‘You shouldn’t talk about it so much.’ I have to. That’s the good news. You need to share it. What good news do we get in our lives that we don’t go and tell people about?” Harbour is a committed husband, father of three sons, and head track coach at a university that has produced the likes of Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner, individual Olympic gold medalists in the 400. He continues to pursue his greatest passion: Being a witness for Jesus Christ. WEB SITE:

Todd Harbour coaching track for Baylor University.





Eric A. Nelson / Getty Images


Faith RX’d

Fitness 0f faith Josh Battle

ast July, if you happened to flip to ESPN expecting to catch up on the day’s baseball scores, you might have stumbled across something you’d never seen before—men and women, each possessing powerful, Spartanlike physiques, performing a variety of rather bizarre physical tasks. Everything from running with 20-pound weighted vests to heavy Olympic lifting, handstand walks to rope climbs. All in an attempt to lay claim to $275,000 in prize money and the audacious title of “Fittest on Earth.” It would have been perfectly normal to ask, “What the heck is this?” The answer: This is CrossFit…the sport of fitness. And if earning live airtime on ESPN and a $2.2 million prize purse doesn’t adequately attest, it’s no passing fad. What you observed was the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games, a demanding five-day competition pitting the fittest humans in the world against one another through a series of short-duration, high-intensity workouts. CrossFit defines itself as “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.” WEB SITE:

Put simply, fitness is only as good as its function. Everything you train for in CrossFit is intended to help you become more efficient with everyday movements—picking things up off the floor, bending over, or squatting down, for example. Skeptics call it by other names. “It’s been called a cult,” said Becky Conzelman, a five-time CrossFit Games competitor. “I think it very much is.” “But there are a lot worse things to be a cult of,” she added quickly. Though it may garner a cult-like following, likening CrossFit to church might serve as a better analogy. While it cannot be called—in any traditional sense—a religion, CrossFit does observe some of the similar functions of a church. First, there’s a sanctuary; or the gym—called a box. There’s a priest; the coach, a trained professional who guides and instructs. It has its own liturgy; each day a new WOD, or workout of the day, is performed. There is of course the congregation; referred to as “the community.” And it’s nothing if not evangelistic; the first rule of CrossFit is that you always talk about CrossFit (Note: This is also the second rule of CrossFit). It even has SPORTS SPECTRUM


its Saints; memorialized in the Hero WODs, particularly intense workouts named after fallen servicemen and women. Last but not least, it’s transformational; millions of people train in this way because it produces the kind of measureable results not attained through other fitness methods. “It’s an incredible core-to-extremity strengthening program,” Conzelman said. “It can really serve the foundation of many people. If your core is strong, everything else kind of propels out from there.” “I think it’s so successful because it does produce results; amazing results,” she emphasized. Every gym, all 13,000 and counting in over 120 countries, can offer testimonies to the physical, mental, and emotional transformation of its members. For many, their initiation into CrossFit begins with saying “I can’t do that,” but that’s the point. To CrossFit is to identify weakness, isolate it, and then focus concentrated effort until it can no longer be called a weakness; until it becomes, in fact, strength. “People say ‘CrossFit is too hard,’” Conzelman added. “It is hard. It’s hard for the beginner and it’s hard for the elite, but we’re all pushing ourselves to the capacity that we want to push ourselves.” But CrossFit—as a program—has a glaring weakness of its own. For all its transfor-

mative qualities, CrossFit cannot, in and of itself, save your life. CrossFit is clearly secular in form. Where it comes up lacking is in the realm of the spiritual. In fitness, this is referred to as a deficiency. Becky Conzelman sees it differently. The missing faith element within the CrossFit world is, instead, an opportunity. Like any elite athlete with a deficiency would, she has isolated the weakness and attacked it head on. Both faith and athletics have played a central role throughout Conzelman’s life. She’s served as a church youth director in Hawaii and as Area Director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Pennsylvania. She competed in triathlons and road cycling, which evolved into a track cycling career. She became a three-time National Champion and even competed internationally for the U.S. National Cycling Team from 2002-2005, representing the U.S. at two World Championships and three World Cups. In 2009, her focus shifted when, after the birth of her second child, she was introduced to CrossFit. It was a natural transition. “I’m wired deeply as a competitor,” Conzelman said. This nature would drive her to compete in the 2011 and 2012 CrossFit Games where she placed 24th and 14th, respectively. In the 2013 Games, she finished second in the 40-44 Masters Division and then competed

“We exist to unite faith and fitness and to build strength that lasts.”



in 2014 and 2015 as a team member of BackCountry CrossFit. Needless to say, the sport of fitness began to play a central role in her life. “I’m a huge evangelist of CrossFit,” Conzelman said. And most CrossFitters are. Anything that transforms your life—not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, or socially—the way this program has for so many, it’s only natural to want to tell everyone you know, and even those you just met, about it. But Conzelman’s passion doesn’t begin and end with fitness itself—her true heart lies with the people of CrossFit. “I’m just so burdened for this community,” she said. In 2013, with her husband Jim, Conzelman founded Faith Rx’d, a nonprofit, interdenominational Christian ministry designed to minister to the unique tribe that make up the CrossFit faithful. “We exist to unite faith and fitness and to build strength that lasts,” she said. And that’s key: “Strength that lasts.” The solution to CrossFit’s weakness. Faith Rx’d addresses the faith element missing from CrossFit the program. And this is where the CrossFit-as-a-church image comes back into play; it all begins with gathering. A word often associated with CrossFit is community, this social element being, perhaps, one of its greatest strengths. The draw of CrossFit for many is not simply a workout, it’s sharing a space, an experience, and daily improvement; it’s the accountability that comes from group activity. “CrossFit equals community,” Conzelman said. “I think that’s what CrossFit has done so well—and that’s where Faith Rx’d comes in—is that it creates a community that’s authentic. Whenever there is shared suffering, you build relationships with people and community is formed.” It’s in this community and through those relationships that Faith Rx’d executes its mission of sharing the Gospel of Christ, the most important mission according to Conzelman. “If this community doesn’t know the love of Christ, then I want them to know it,” she said. “We recognize that we worship idols,” Conzelman added. “Whether it’s our job or our sport or fame, idol worship prevents us from putting God in His proper place. The problem Faith Rx’d seeks to solve is that we live in this culture of idol worship and it’s very easy to worship the god of CrossFit. Our desire is to help people put God where God needs to be because CrossFit will eventually fail them. It’s just a matter of time. Every week, I’m let TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 844-807-7678

down by CrossFit.” Conzelman’s heart is for Faith Rx’d to complement, not compete, with the work of churches in local communities. “At Faith Rx’d, we exist to come alongside the church,” Conzelman continued. “We know that many people come to CrossFit gyms as their church, so our chapters exist to be outreach-oriented groups whereby people might not go to church yet, but they can feel comfortable in their own gym, with friends, to do a workout and to be introduced to spiritual topics.” “Our prayer is that over time, those relationships would grow and deepen and they would grow in their faith and ultimately, they would become part of a church,” she added. Faith Rx’d operates through 63 chapters in multiple countries. These chapters, all volunteer-led, meet twice a month at a local gym where they take participants through a free workout, a time of prayer and Bible teaching, and discussion time. In short, Faith Rx’d is a great opportunity not only to introduce someone to CrossFit, but to the truth of the Gospel as well. Conzelman spoke of how she heard from a man in Texas who had come to the realization that his gym is also an opportunity for ministry. Prior to being exposed to Faith Rx’d, it had just been a place to work out; now he sees it as a place to make disciples. As an athlete, Conzelman is constantly pursuing heavier lifts and faster times, but from hearing stories like these she draws her greatest inspiration and joy. “That’s my hope,” Conzelman said. “That we can mobilize people to see their gym as their mission field. That’s a huge win for us.” “If you ask about my passion in life, I didn’t have a radical conversion,” she added, “but I love the Lord and I’ve been transformed by the Gospel. I know that the truth of the Gospel is what Jesus says: ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ My desire is for every person in every gym to hear the Gospel and be able respond to it the way that God calls them to.” This call is the same for any CrossFitter, whether a working mom or one of the elite few competing center stage at the CrossFit Games. While in CrossFit, transformation of the body comes through intense physical effort, the Gospel teaches us that spiritual transformation comes through Christ alone. Salvation is not in our hands or by our efforts. There’s comfort in a Gospel that reminds us, time and time again, that that’s okay; WEB SITE:

it’s not up to us, we simply have to receive the grace that God freely offers. This is the message that Becky Conzelman loves to share, the strength of heart that Faith Rx’d builds. Isaiah makes clear that the grasses will wither and the flowers will fade—so too will the relentlessly refined bodies of the fittest men and women on Earth—but the Word of God will stand forever. There is hope in knowing our fitness can’t save us, but through the Gospel we have an opportunity to receive the free gift of salvation—the only thing that lasts. My own baptism into CrossFit came in 2012 at the hands of two pastors in California. The gym, just a garage and some equipment, served as part of their ministry to students at Stanford University. If I’m honest with you, that first WOD wrecked me. It left me gasping for air and asking, “What the heck is this?” But for some reason—perhaps it was simply that I was invited back—I did return and I haven’t stopped since. So yes, I too am a disciple. Count me among the faithful. By the way, I meant to ask at the beginning, have you ever heard about CrossFit?





Jonathan Moore / Getty Images



HEAVEN After a career of extreme highs and lows, US Olympic marathoner

Ryan Hall took one more challenge: seven marathons, in seven days, on seven continents.


by Aliese Willard



yan Hall had not finished a single marathon in nearly three years. This was more than disappointing, though he tried not to pay attention to the fans and media who said so. Since his exhilarating debut in the London Marathon in 2007 (when he ran the fastest first marathon by an American), the marathon was Hall’s race. He ran all over the world training and competing as a professional runner, and before the age of 30 had raced in two Olympics and held the U.S. records for the fastest half marathon and the Boston Marathon. For a time, his running prospects were as golden as his signature blond shag. Hall was the U.S. long-distance force to be reckoned with. Even Kenyans, long-dominant in distance racing, respected him. “One of my Kenyan buddies told me, ‘You’re famous in Kenya. You’re the white guy everyone knows about,’” Hall told a USA Today reporter in 2012. Beginning in 2012, though, his races were cut short due to injuries: plantar fasciitis, then issues in his right hamstring and hip caused

him to drop out of the 2012 Olympic Marathon 10 miles in. Later, he tore his left, then right quadriceps muscles, followed by a stress fracture of his sacrum. “It was just getting to the point where I was like, ‘This is pretty ridiculous,’” Hall says. The news headlines with his name and the words “Dropped Out” or “DNF” (Did Not Finish) increased. (Not that Hall ever read them; he adamantly avoids reading articles about himself.) He withdrew from the 2012 New York Marathon, citing continuing injuries. Then he pulled out of the Boston and New York Marathons in 2013, for the same reasons. His last complete race was the 2014 Boston Marathon, where he finished in 20th place. Though he hoped to make a comeback at the 2015 Los Angeles Marathon, he made it halfway before having to pull out. Even when the injuries healed, a heavy fatigue took their place, and impeded his training. In the past, Hall regularly ran over 100 miles a week. Now he felt exhausted and had to turn around after 15 minutes of jogging. He lingered in training for months, hoping his energy would improve.

Hall competing in the marathon at the 2012 US Olympic Trials in Houston, TX. He finished in second place to secure a berth at the 2012 Olympics.



Thomas B. Shea / Getty Images


It didn’t. “It was super clear and obvious that my body wasn’t responding to training anymore, and just wanted to be done,” Hall says. “For years I was pouring my life into something, and was getting worse and worse. That’s a really frustrating process to go through. It did allow me to feel like I did everything I possibly could, so it was time to move on to something else.” After months of deliberation and prayer, Hall announced the inevitable end of his competitive running career. He retired in January of 2016. Two months later, he got an unusual text message.

Is That Even Possible? Hall was lifting weights in his garage when he heard his phone buzz. “Hey, I’m doing this crazy challenge next


year: Seven marathons in Seven days on Seven continents,” the text said. It was from Matthew Barnett, one of Hall’s friends, and a pastor and founder of the Dream Center, a Christian mission and service center in Los Angeles. Barnett wanted to run the 2017 World Marathon Challenge to raise funds for the Dream Center, and asked if Hall was interested. “My head just started to spin,” Hall says. “I was like, ‘Is that even possible? Can you get to all of those locations in a week?’ Something about it just captured me.” Even for the best marathoners in the world, finishing the World Marathon Challenge is a formidable feat. Conventional wisdom (and Runner’s World) says to spend anywhere from two to four weeks recovering from a single marathon. World Marathon Challenge participants would have less than a day between the seven marathons. And Hall was not exactly in racing form. It’s not that he wasn’t fit; on the contrary, Hall was in top shape. Just not for distance running. Needing a non-running athletic outlet after retirement, Hall had gotten into weightlifting, and it had become a passion. Previously 5’10” and 130 pounds, Hall once had the wiry body type that most elite marathoners dwindle to. Former coach Terrence Mahon once observed that Hall looked like a “white Kenyan,” for his lanky frame that mirrored elite east African racers. After lifting weights for an hour each day and packing on 40 pounds of muscle, however, Post-Retirement Ryan Hall looked more like a beefed-up contestant on American Ninja Warrior. Or, as a commenter in a Flotrack article about Hall’s new look put it, “Ryan Hulk.” While Hall’s energy improved, the small amount of running he still did—a relaxed 30 minutes a few times a week—began to feel different. “I don’t ever have the feeling I used to have where I feel like a deer running through the forest; now I feel like a lumbering bear or something,” Hall says. The extra weight, though healthily acquired, posed a new risk: it could throw off his mechanics and running stride, leading to injury. The distance itself was the other uncertainty. It can take months to build up the mileage and stamina required to finish a single marathon. But seven in a row, on different continents? When he hadn’t finished one in almost three years? Nevertheless, Hall began to think about taking on the Challenge.

For a good cause? Check. Seemingly impossible? Yup. A way to find closure? Maybe… Though his decision to retire had involved careful consideration, Hall still didn’t feel satisfaction with the conclusion of his running career. “My last race wasn’t a good race,” Hall says. “I didn’t leave my shoes on the finish line, I didn’t know it was going to be my last race. There was a lack of closure to the process for me.” Hall’s dream for retiring involved running a final race, finishing strong, then removing his racing shoes once he crossed the finish line and leaving them there. Not to mention he was feeling a special calling to try the Challenge. “I had this feeling of, ‘God’s giving me the desire to actually want to do this,’ which sounded crazy because you don’t not run and then just sign up for something like that,” Hall says. The last time he had felt that calling to pursue an athletic dream was in high school.

When God Showed Up At age 13, Hall tried distance running for the first time. Previously a baseball, basketball, and football player in his hometown of Big Bear Lake, California, Hall felt an urge to run one day, and followed it. Raised in a Christian family, Hall was certain he knew Whom it came from. “God gave me this crazy desire to go out on this epic run. It would be the first one I’d ever done as a 13-year-old basketball player, and I ran 15 miles around the lake with my dad,” Hall says.

“I really felt like [God] was telling me, ‘I’ve given you a gift to run with the best guys in the world, and I’ve given you that gift so you can help other people.’ So from that moment on I was fully going after that vision that God had put in my life.” He remembers collapsing on the couch in his living room after the lake run, and feeling that God had big plans for him, and that they involved running. “I really felt like [God] was telling me, ‘I’ve given you a gift to run with the best guys in SPORTS SPECTRUM


the world, and I’ve given you that gift so you can help other people.’ So from that moment on I was fully going after that vision that God had put in my life,” Hall says. Hall pursued this calling wholeheartedly, even as his social life became a casualty. He lost friends because he was no longer doing the same activities. Hall’s father was a teacher at his high school, and gradually Hall found himself eating his lunch in his dad’s classroom, because he had no friends to eat with. “I’m super grateful my dad was there for me and he could be my friend, but there was still that loneliness, and it made me go even deeper to God,” Hall says. “I remember having a conversation with God. I said, ‘I really need you to show up as my friend right now because I feel super lonely,’ and He did. That’s really where the relationship grew from, was that starting point of loneliness.” A few years later, as a scholarship athlete in his sophomore year at Stanford, Hall saw God change his life again. Hall was struggling academically, was injured and not performing well athletically, 52


Jonathan Moore / Getty Images

“It was a super powerful time in my life when I was able to flip my perspective from a runner who happened to be a Christian, to a Christian who happened to run.” and health-wise was constantly ill. This unbalance segued into a heavy blanket of depression. “I was losing my identity,” Hall says. “It was completely based on what I did, and not who I was.” He dropped out of Stanford the winter quarter of his sophomore year, and returned home. When his depression didn’t improve, his pastor asked him to return to what God was calling him to do. Hall knew that meant going back to Stanford, and back to running. That’s when he felt God working on his heart, and changing his perspective. “I went back to Stanford [that spring]. And

I didn’t start winning every race or anything like that, but things just gradually started to shift, and I started to see the fruit of what was going on inside of me. I started to see it in my academics, in my running, and in the general amount of joy that I was having in my day-to-day living,” Hall says. “It was a super powerful time in my life when I was able to flip my perspective from a runner who happened to be a Christian, to a Christian who happened to run. Running was no longer the foundation or cornerstone of my life. Now it was who I was in God, and I didn’t need to perform anymore. It took the pressure off.”

Around the World in Seven Days Finding his identity outside of athletics prepared Hall for the next big transition of his life: retiring from the marathon. Professional athletes leaving their sports can often trigger an identity crisis and loss of purpose. Not in Hall’s case. “I think a big reason why the transition was so easy for me, is that I knew what was next. I just adopted four daughters, four sisTO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 844-807-7678

ters from Ethiopia, and [my goals are] being a good dad, learning to love my wife better, and learning to serve other people better,” Hall says. “That really helped me move on into the next season cleanly, just realizing that this season [of competitive running] was over, and now I’m in a new season and this is what I’m doing.” Hall and his wife, Sara (another professional runner who Hall met at Stanford) adopted four Ethiopian sisters between the ages of 6 to 16–Lily, Jasmine, Mia, and Hana—in the fall of 2015. Aside from raising his daughters, other pursuits after his retirement included working on the nonprofit Hall Steps Foundation he started with Sara, coaching her through her own marathons, and continuing to make appearances at athletic events across the U.S. Even with a busy daily life and little proper training, though, Hall still felt an urge to run the World Marathon Challenge. With the blessing of his family, he said yes to Barnett and the Challenge, and in January 2017, flew to Antarctica. “What’s going on, guys? Ryan here.” So begins each video in a series that chronicles Hall’s marathons and journey around the world for the Challenge. For each marathon, Hall pulled out his phone and filmed himself before, during and after. Marathon #1 took place on top of the Union Glacier in Antarctica. Hall ran and slipped through the snow, and finished an hour and 22 minutes behind his best marathon time. The surprise to him, though, was that he was able to finish at all; he now had hope that completing the challenge was possible. For the next five days in sequence, he flew to Punta Arenas, Chile, Miami, Florida, Madrid, Spain, Marrakesh, Morocco, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, finishing the day’s marathon in each country and continent. His times were slow, his strides were shorter. His legs were “trashed” and he was “suffering like I’ve never suffered before” (especially in Madrid). Each day brought fewer hours of sleep and recovery.

Hall’s shoes on the finish line in Sydney, Australia, after the seventh marathon of the World Marathon Challenge.

“At the end of the race I ended my last ever marathon the way I always envisioned. I stopped, pulled off my shoes, and left them on the finish line. It was an emotional goodbye as the marathon has meant so much to me throughout the years.” By the time Hall reached Marathon #7 in Sydney, Australia, he knew he was hurt. A burning pain in his hips from the previous day’s marathon in Dubai hadn’t gone away. He could still run, though, and decided he would finish his last marathon. “This is my way of saying ‘thank you’ to the marathon distance, and this is the last ride,” he says in the video clip at the start of the marathon. “Alright, I’ll see you guys at Mile 23.” When Hall checked in for his video log at Mile 23, he wasn’t running. “Yes, I am walking now. Well, running, slash walking,” he laughs. “It’s just my hips. They’re

on fire. My legs are just gone completely. I was thinking that it’s very fitting to have a rough day, because that’s how my career went: high highs and low lows, and that’s what happens when you dream big and train hard and go for everything.” The fiery pain in Hall’s hips turned out to be a stress fracture, discovered via MRI once Hall returned to the United States. He limped across the finish line, and then did what he had hoped to do for the past three years: “At the end of the race I ended my last ever marathon the way I always envisioned. I stopped, pulled off my shoes, and left them on the finish line. It was an emotional goodbye as the marathon has meant so much to me throughout the years,” Hall wrote in his blog post about the World Marathon Challenge. Hall’s final marathon was more than double the amount of time of his fastest race. But he had completed more marathons in seven days than he had in the past eight years. And between Barnett, Hall, and the World Marathon Challenge, $1.4 million was raised for the Dream Center. When Hall returned from the Challenge, he began volunteering as an assistant track coach at two of his daughters’ schools. Now he cheers on his eldest, Hana, as she competes in local track meets. “No matter what place she’s in or how fast she’s going, I get proud just watching her run. It helped me see how God feels, I think, when He watches me run. He’s proud of me regardless of how fast I’m going or what place I’m in,” Hall says. “What I’ve learned over the years is that we can’t judge our relationship with God based on results, because sometimes we’re getting closer to God and making the right decisions, but the results aren’t what we expected. So I’m learning to look at my life differently and look at results differently and value my connection with God more than what the results can possibly bring.”

World Marathon Challenge Ryan Hall riding a fat bike in Antarctica before the World Marathon Challenge. (Right) Hall running in Antarctica during the marathon.


Photos courtesy of Ryan Hall.



Take it with You

Training Verses

These are verses meant to inspire and guide you as you work out and train; tear out the next page and keep it with you. Above all, remember 1 Timothy 4:8: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”






I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Hebrews 12:11-13


Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Lars Baron - FIFA / Getty Images

WHEN YOU NEED ENDURANCE He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy and with my song I praise Him. Psalm 28:7 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. Romans 15:5 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. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

WHEN YOU ARE INJURED “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30-31




Daily Devotional


WEEK 1 Monday

Starting Off Right

Mental training is just as important as physical training. Whenever I hear negative comments being said about me, I use that as motivation to help me play the very best that I ever have. Whenever someone says you can’t do something, doesn’t it just make you want it all the more? Working out as hard as I can gives me the mental edge of knowing what no one else can truly know—that I am ready for this season. Spiritual training is even more important. “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” —1 Timothy 4:8 One thing that my family and I have been doing is engaging in daily Bible reading at the breakfast table together before the kids get ready for school. My wife and I were talking about how we need to give our first fruits to God, and I couldn’t help but think that giving my first fruits needed to include my family. So lately we’ve been giving our breakfast time as our time before God—first thing in the morning. This is a great way to start our day: in the Word, going over the different things we learn in Scripture. Whenever we get to a word that my girls don’t understand, we talk about it. The other day we were reading the passage in Matthew about Jesus being tempted in the desert by Satan after 40 days of fasting and so, as a family, we discussed what fasting is. I know that my girls are picking up on the truth of the Bible. I see the evidence of it in their lives when they go out to draw with chalk on the driveway. Yesterday I went out to see Morgan drawing Jesus and Macy drawing a Cross. They chose to draw whatever they wanted, and that was Jesus. Never before have I done my Bible reading in the morning. I’ve always wanted to. I’ve even been envious of my mentors and other men I see diving into the Word first thing while I’ve been laying down on my bed playing Words with Friends on my phone. I tried to squeeze my quiet time in when I could. It always seems to be easier on the road when I have extra time in the hotel room, on a plane, or on a bus. At home, there are always distractions and excuses. It’s easy to just hurry off to school or church and leave it until later, or even the next day. But I’ve been encouraged to avoid opening my phone before I’ve opened the Word of God and let that truth guide my day. I want to continue this challenge and give God my first fruits each day. “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.” —Exodus 23:19 — Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher

Ps 106-107 58


Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images

II Kings 9-11


Tuesday “Then it shall be, when you enter the

land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you bring in from your land that the Lord your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name.” Deuteronomy 26:13 (NIV)

Origin of the First Fruits

Deuteronomy 26 gives us an extensive view of God’s command to the Israelites to honor Him with their first fruits. Moses explains that the purpose of this offering was to acknowledge how God took the Israelites down to Egypt, multiplied their number, released them, and gave them the land of Canaan as an inheritance. God told the Israelites that their first fruits were to be given in thanks for “Cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill…” —Deuteronomy 6:10-11 (NIV) The command to sacrifice first fruits was given by God to keep the Israelites from becoming boastful—thinking they had achieved the goodness of the land on their own. They were not to give God the “leftovers,” but instead the best the land had yielded. Shouldn’t we give God the best of our days to spend in communion with Him? Take time today to thank Him for all that He is and all that He has provided for you. — Mickey Weston

Ps 108-114 II Kings 12-13, II Chron 24

Wednesday “The Lord is a warrior. The Lord is His name.” Exodus 15:3 (NIV)

Heart of a Warrior

For an athlete to compete at the highest level, they must develop the heart of a warrior. Few in professional baseball have developed that warrior heart like Adam Wainwright. Adam is what many would call the “ACE” of the St. Louis Cardinals. He has mastered controlling what he can have control over: His Attitude, his Concentration, and his Effort. A warrior gives his best for the team. Signing a contract like this with your teammates will help each of you develop the heart of a warrior and help each of you become the A.C.E. of your team. It’s not about me, it’s about we. I will have the right ATTITUDE everyday. Whether or not I’m starting or riding the bench, on a hitting streak or slumping, winning or losing, I will be the best me to help my team win. It’s about today; the goal is to win. (initial) I will CONCENTRATE on the task at hand, regardless of what has just happened or might happen. My goal is to do what’s necessary to win and execute in this moment. (initial) I will give my best EFFORT every moment, every play, every pitch, whether I’m playing or not.


I will do what I can to help my team in the best (initial) way I can. If I’m not, I give permission to my teammates and coaches to call me out! (sign)


— Mickey Weston

Ps 115-118

II Kings 14, II Chron 25

Thursday “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” Mark 1:35 (NIV)

Taking Time Away

I’m a night owl. Playing professional baseball for fifteen years and coaching for three with the New York Mets ingrained my flesh to adjust my daily time clock to correspond with baseball season. Late nights and rising well after the sun was already up became a part of my routine. I would say that “finding” time to spend with the Lord in a quiet, secluded place was difficult. In all actuality, I was making a “choice” to stay up late which made it more difficult to find time early in the morning to spend with Jesus. Throughout the Psalms, David speaks of rising “in the morning” to sing praises to the Lord, to speak with the Lord, and to order his day, expecting to see the Lord work in his life. What we do in the morning seems to set the stage for what will happen the rest of the day. What would it take for you to get up thirty minutes earlier in order to spend a little more time with Jesus, allowing Him to speak to you through His Word and giving you the space and time to talk with Him? Eliminating our excuses and choosing to give Jesus the first part of our morning will help keep our minds on Him and His Word throughout the day.

— Mickey Weston

Ps 119:1-88


Friday “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of Truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)

Diligence Produces Good Results

Every athlete’s desire is to produce good results by their efforts. Not every athlete, however, puts in the same amount of time, sweat, effort, and diligence to develop the skills he or she has been given. Diligence is defined as “having or showing care and conscientiousness in one’s work or duties.” The original root word suggests having “a love for or taking delight in” what you work so hard to do. Giving God the best of all that we are requires diligence. Whether on a field, in a classroom, or developing relationships with others, we have to

be committed to going the extra mile to get the results we desire. If our ultimate aim is to glorify Christ in all that we do, we must diligently pursue Him each day to gain a better understanding of what He wants our lives to be. Proverbs speaks of the results of being diligent: “The hand of the diligent will rule.” “The soul of the diligent is made fat.” “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage.” There are no shortcuts to becoming a man or woman of God. We must “have a love for” and “take delight in” our relationship with Jesus each day by studying His Word, talking with Him about His Word, listening for His voice, and sharing Jesus with others. Then we will be a “workman who does not need to be ashamed.” — Mickey Weston

Ps 119:89-176 II Kings 15; 2 Chron 26


Going Long Continue reading about giving God your best.

Saturday Psalm 139 & 2 Corinthians 8 Sunday Proverbs 18 & 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 Ps 120-132

Is 1-4

Ps 133-139

Is 5-8

“One thing that my family and I have been doing is engaging in daily Bible reading at the breakfast table together before the kids get ready for school. My wife and I were talking about how we need to give our first fruits to God, and I couldn’t help but think that giving my first fruits needed to include my family.” -Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher

Mickey Weston serves as the chaplain of the Chicago White Sox.



WEEK 2 Monday

In Need of a Spark

The Psalms are very near to my heart and my soul. When I first became a believer, I read one Psalm or Proverb each day, along with a passage each from the Old and New Testaments. While I don’t read a Psalm every day now, I do often go to them when I’m in need of a word of encouragement or wisdom. I let the words of the Psalms speak to my heart and fill my soul. In any season where you need a spark, the Psalms make a great pit stop to recharge. When you read David’s words throughout the Psalms, you see his great love for God. No matter what situation he found himself in—whether in a good place or a bad place, whether overtaking his enemies or being chased by them—he was constantly pursuing the Lord. David was continually reminding himself of how good God is. I’ve learned to do the same in my day-to-day walk with Christ. Instead of getting caught up in so many busy tasks for the Lord, I try to be in continual pursuit of the Lord, constantly reminding myself how good He is and that He is in control of everything. He’s my Protector, He’s my Provider. I don’t have to tirelessly stay busy doing all these things for the Lord because when I pursue Him with all my heart, and trust that He’s in complete control, He is then the one who guides my steps. We often talk about David as a man after God’s own heart, which he is, but he had huge failures at times. As soon as he took his eyes off of the Lord, he fell into temptation. But even after he fell, he went right back into pursuit of the Lord. That is how we need to be in all aspects of our lives—no matter when or how we fail, we need to run back to our good God. “May Your unfailing love come to me, Lord, Your salvation, according to Your promise; then I can answer anyone who taunts me, for I trust in Your Word. Never take Your Word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in Your laws. I will always obey Your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out Your precepts. I will speak of Your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in Your commands because I love them. I reach out for Your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on Your decrees.” —Psalm 119:41-48II Sam 19-21 I Sam 9-12 I love this Psalm because it clearly shows the importance of God’s Word in our lives and the power that it brings us. We need to be storing God’s truth in our hearts so that we can be in constant pursuit of His character, His love, and His promise. — Demario Davis Cleveland Browns linebacker

Ps 140-145 60


Amos 1-5


Tuesday “And behold a voice from heaven said,

‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” Matthew 3:17

The Greatest Weapon

After Jesus was announced to the world by the Father, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for 40 days, the devil tempted Jesus with food. Jesus’ response was “Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (v.4) No matter how good food is to our physical bodies, Jesus reiterated how much more important spiritual nourishment is for our souls. That nourishment comes directly from the Word of God. This was the only weapon Jesus used to fight against the devil, who came at Him with two more temptations. Each time, Jesus quoted Scripture to do battle with His enemy. Here Jesus used the Word of God as a defense, but Paul tells us that we can also use it on offense. Are you currently going through a challenging time? Are you struggling with some temptations in your life? Then my prayer for you is that you will put on the armor of God as your weapons of defense, but don’t forget to go on the attack offensively against the onslaught of the devil and use the Word of God to combat the mounting pressures you may be facing today. — Don Davis

Ps 146-150

Amos 6-9

“We need to be storing God’s truth in our hearts so that we can be in constant pursuit of His character, His love, and His promise.” -Demario Davis Cleveland Browns Linebacker Wednesday “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:1-3

choices of which you are ashamed? John reminds us that everything has a beginning, and if we want to change our lives in any way, we must start with the Word of God. Why? Because nothing was made without the Word. (v.3) The Word of God brings life and light that shines in the darkness. (v.4) The Word tell us that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) If your life isn’t currently where you had hoped it would be, or you are struggling with burdens that seem overwhelming right now, I want to encourage you to look to the One who was there in the beginning, the One who became flesh and dwelt among us, the One who gives us grace upon grace. — Don Davis

Prov 1-3

Thursday “If you abide in My Word, you are My

disciples indeed and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:31-32

Abide in Him

I played eleven seasons in the NFL for four different teams. Each time, my family and I were less than enthused to move to a different area. However, I taught my girls that it didn’t matter where we lived, so long as we were together. In the gospel of John, Jesus also tells us that it doesn’t matter where we live physically, but it does matter where we live spiritually. “If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” —John 8:31-32 We need to make a lifestyle of abiding in God’s Word. In Colossians 3:16, Paul tells us to “Let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly.” In 1999, I was at a conference when I heard Dr. Tony Evans say that he could tell where your life was going to be in five years based off three things: The words you speak, the company you keep, and the books you read—the most important of which is the Word of God. After hearing this, I committed to a daily intake of God’s Word. Seventeen years later, I can tell you that there is no other decision that has caused more spiritual growth in my life. My prayer for you today is that you begin to live a life in God’s Word, allowing His truth to live in you richly so that you can make decisions for your life according to His will. — Don Davis

New Mercies

My wife loves watching the popular show Fixer Upper. She especially loves seeing the last two minutes, when Chip and Joanna reveal how they’ve turned an old, broken-down home into a dream home. It’s easy for us to marvel at the finished product of anything without taking into account all the hard work it took to get there. As you look at your life today, are you feeling downcast at what you see? Have you made


II Chron 27, Is 9-12

Prov 4-6

Diamond Images / Getty Images

Prov 7-9

II Chron 28; II Kings 16-17


Going Long Continue reading about the

power of studying God’s Word this weekend.

Saturday Hebrews 4:1-13 & 1 John 4:1-6 Sunday Proverbs 4 & Joshua 1:8 Prov 10-12

Is 13-17

Prov 13-15

Is 18-22


Friday “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,” 2 Peter 1: 2-3

Multiplying Peace

started coaching. The hardest thing about that transition was the drastic difference in schedules. As a player, you know during the season you will have one day off each week, and during the off-season, you have the weekends off to be with family. However, as a coach you have hardly any days off, whether in season or offseason. After only one year, I just didn’t have peace in my spirit about continuing. Have you ever made a decision and then later didn’t feel peace in your heart about it? In 2 Peter 1:2, the apostle Paul says that peace can be multiplied in our lives. How? In the knowledge of God. The Bible is full of examples that show God’s promises and provision to those who were less than perfect. It also tells us that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). That means that if God has done it before, He can do it again. There have been times in my life when I began to get discouraged thinking I would never see the answer to a prayer. It’s during these times that I meditate on God’s Word and claim the promises of God. This doesn’t always end with the answer I was looking for, but it brings peace to my heart. I pray that the peace of God will be multiplied in your life as you grow in the knowledge of God. — Don Davis

Don Davis serves as Director of Football Ministry at Pro Athletes Outreach.

When I retired from the NFL, I immediately SPORTS SPECTRUM


WEEK 3 Monday

Pushing Reset

Solitude with God is the foundation of my day. Every morning when I wake up, before I do anything else, I open God’s Word. I’ve learned to listen to God who always lays on my heart what it is that I’m made to do that day. Lately God’s been showing me that He’s created me to be different, unlike anybody else. There are things that have happened to me and ways that He’s designed me that are unique to only me—ways that I can be used for God’s purposes. There are many things in my life that are out of my control but I know that God’s preparing me for something much greater than what I could plan for. That could be football and/or life after football, but I know that in all things God’s equipping me by His strength. “Do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” —Luke 12:11-12 Each day I try to pray that God would show me someone who needs to be helped in some way, whether that’s at the grocery store, parking lot, etc., though I don’t always remember to act on this. But recently I was at the mall and noticed a man who kept walking around like he was looking for something. Eventually he came up to me and asked me for $2 so that he could buy a ride for himself and his wife. I gave him a little more than that and asked if I could pray for him. After I did, he said that no one had ever done that for him before. He said that the prayer meant more to him than the money I had offered, and that having someone encourage him with the Word around the holiday was just what he needed. I was struck by the power of God’s love and sovereignty that day. I was thankful that He opened my heart to see this man’s need so that I could be a light in his darkness. The only way for me to be open and aware of the needs of those around me is to stay close to Christ. Being in the Word is how I can really reset my mind back on the will and purpose of God. I’m human—I fail, sin, and get angry—but when I go back to God I’m able to focus my mind on Him, knowing that God’s grace is sufficient. I can choose to be critical of others who are broken just like me or I can choose to see others the way that God sees them. I’m not ashamed of the Gospel. I want to spread it to whoever I can in whatever setting I’m in. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” —Romans 1:16 — Brandon Boykin, NFL cornerback

Prov 16-18 62


Is 23-27

T O S U B S C R I B E T OT OS SP UO BR ST SC RSI PB E C TTOR USMP :O RC TASL LS P8 E4 C4 -T 8R 0U7M-:7 6C 7A 8L L 8 4 4 - 8 0 7 - 7 6 7 8

Tuesday “The people I formed for Myself will declare My praise.” Isaiah 43:21 (NLT)

Born to Reflect God’s Nature

Isn’t it amazing when we discover the truth concerning our lives in the pages of Scripture? Not only did the Lord plan the details of your life, but in all actuality, He created you to fit into His plan to bless humanity and to reflect and express His love to the world! Scripture reveals that the reason for your birth was to show God’s glory. Glory is defined as “the expressed true nature of something.” The glory of a rosebush is the flower in bloom, just as the glory of God is you operating in your full potential and purpose. God’s glory is full of so much more than we can imagine, and He’s waiting for us to tap into that potential! “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” —Ephesians 3:19 (NLT) God created you to bring glory to His name. He knows there is more to you than we can see, because He places His nature inside of us when we receive Christ as Lord. Prayer: Lord, I am amazed that You chose me to be en expression of You! Teach me to live a life that is less of me and more of You, so that Your light shines through me. Amen. — Pastor Ted Winsley Prov 19-21 II Kings 18:1-8; II Chron 29-31; Ps 48

Wednesday “Then Jesus came to them and said,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:8

Influence Heaven and Earth

The Bible reveals that our tremendous potential includes the capacity to influence both physical and spiritual things (Heaven and Earth). This is a power that isn’t easy to understand and one we seldom properly use. Jesus first spoke of this power after asking a disciple, “Who do men say I am?” “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘You are blessed, Simon son of John, because My Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means “rock”), and upon this rock I will build My Church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” —Matthew 16:16-19 (NLT) Jesus encourages us to look beyond our physical circumstances and into the spiritual dimension. Look beyond the problems in your job, your home, or your community to the spiritual


realities that underlie them. You hold the keys to your effective participation in God’s Kingdom. All authority in Heaven and on earth belongs to Jesus! Prayer: Lord, I repent for being moved by what I see, and not living my life in the reality of what Your Word says about me. Thank you for the power to change the earth through the authority of Heaven! Amen.

— Pastor Ted Winsley

Prov 22-23

Hos 1-7

Thursday “Jesus went out to them, walking on

the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s You,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to You on the water.’ ‘Come,’ He said.” Matthew 14:25-29 (NIV)

person is or how much influence he has: If God is with you, it doesn’t matter who is coming against you. If you are going to release your potential, you must live each day checking out who’s with you instead of who’s against you. You can spend the rest of your life fighting the many people and circumstances that come against you, or you can focus on God’s presence and treat all else as a temporary inconvenience. If God is with you, those who accuse or harass you have no power over you. This week can be a good one because your protection relies not on how much power your accusers have but on how much power Christ has. Prayer: Father, I thank You that I can do everything You have created me to do and be, because I am with You and because You are for me! In Jesus’ name, Amen. — Pastor Ted Winsley

Prov 27-29

Get Out of The Boat

When a person has a close call with death, they often suddenly change their lifestyle and their attitude toward life changes. The Biblical record bears witness to the fact that a crisis can get people back on track. In the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, and most significantly, the apostle Paul, God used a major crisis to move these heroes of faith beyond mediocrity. Without this stirring, most of us would never fly. An eagle that doesn’t fly cannot fulfill its purpose. Likewise, your life will lack purpose and focus until you discover your wings. This discovery will require both wisdom and courage, because the thrill of flying always begins with the fear of falling. The greatest gift God offers is pushing you into a crisis of temporary discomfort that requires you to try your wings. This is His supreme act of love, akin to a mother eagle pushing her young from the nest, forcing them to fly. Prayer: Lord, give me the courage and strength to overcome my fear of falling, in order to experience the joys of flying with You. Amen. — Pastor Ted Winsley

Prov 24-26 Hos 8-14

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

Do All Things Through Christ

You cannot do all things. You can only do all things through Christ, who gives you the ability. Without Christ, your plans, dreams, and imaginations will amount to nothing—your efforts are useless and the result is frustration. The implication is that if God has given you something to do and He is with you, nothing and no one is going to stop you from accomplishing what God wants you to do. I don’t care who the

Joe Robbins / Getty Images

Is 28-30


Going Long Continue reading about the power of God.

Saturday Mark 10:13-31 & Genesis 18:1-15 Sunday Psalm 93 & Jeremiah 10 Prov 30-31 Is 31-34 Ecc 1-4

Is 35-36

“The only way for me to be open and aware of the needs of those around me is to stay close to Christ. Being in the Word is how I can really reset my mind back on the will and purpose of God. I’m human— I fail, sin, and get angry— but when I go back to God I’m able to focus my mind on Him, knowing that God’s grace is sufficient.” -Brandon Boykin, NFL cornerback Pastor Ted Winsley serves as the chaplain for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.



WEEK 4 Monday

The Envy Trap

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” —Proverbs 14:30 Last season, Brandon Marshall and I were going through the book The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. We encountered a lot of old and new truths to dive into. In one portion of our study we were looking at the trap of envy. We know that God hates sin, but envy is one sin that God specifically highlights as evil. He ultimately despises envy. Envying something, no matter what that is—someone else’s looks, success, etc.—is a sin. In fact it’s a slap in the face to God because, ultimately, you are telling Him that He made a mistake. It’s extremely hard to avoid the trap of envy, especially in the NFL. Our jobs are productionbased; we are constantly measuring ourselves up to our teammates and opponents. The more you accomplish, the better you are—if you’re having a bad season but someone else is having a great one, it’s really hard to not be jealous of them. To avoid this, we can focus on the fact that there are valuable lessons to be learned through adversity. In order to avoid envying someone else’s success, we should remind each other how blessed we really are to be where we are—we have a platform to witness for Christ. It’s an honor to do what God is calling us to do, no matter what that is. God gave us His only Son and the power to witness to others and spread the Good News of His saving grace. We may be the only Jesus that someone else sees, and that can either be a negative or a positive one so we always have to be on our toes in order to be our best for Christ. I have had many great representations of Christ throughout my life. I’ve been so encouraged watching how diligent my mother and father have always been to remain in the Word, studying Scripture. They always encouraged me to go to Sunday school, church, and seek God on my own. Likewise, I’ve always admired my grandfather and my father-in-law’s faith, their preaching, and their lifestyles of spreading God’s truth to others. Seeing these faithful Christians and experiencing their love for God reminds me to constantly renew my mind so that I am seeking God wholeheartedly. Life gets busy; in the middle of the NFL season when it’s hard to find time for anything outside of football, it’s extremely important to stay faithful in reading God’s Word. No matter what life throws your way, the best thing you can do is to keep God’s Word at the forefront of your mind. This will help you to renew your mind and trust God with whatever you may face today. —Matt Forte, New York Jets’ running back

Ecc 5-8 64


Is 37-39; Ps 76


Tuesday “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14

Vertical Peace

Matt’s devotional was right on with where we all live. That Colossians verse just jumped off the page for me… “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since members of one body you were called to peace.” —Colossians 3:15 (NIV) How cool would it be if an attitude of peace and calm was a distinguishing mark of Christians in the locker room? Where does that kind of peace come from? A verse from the Old Testament can help us: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” —Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV) Jeremiah shows us that we tend to look in the wrong places for life. We should go vertically to Jesus to get real peace, but instead we often look horizontally here on earth in places that will ultimately never satisfy the longing we have. We think peace comes from a new job, the next car, a sweet house, or a spouse who treats you “like you deserve.” I’ve been in Detroit as the Lions Chaplain for 32 seasons now and believe me, I have often thought that a Super Bowl victory would bring a sense of real joy and peace! Or maybe just a playoff win! Yet I know better. Real peace and authentic joy only come only from a vertical relationship with the Creator of peace...Jesus Christ. Take a moment today to drink from His living water.

Ecc 9-12

— Dave Wilson

Is 40-43

Wednesday “They must turn from evil and do

good; they must seek peace and pursue it.” 1 Peter 3:11

Horizontal Peace

I have discovered that Jesus is the only source of true peace, but that peace gets real in relationships in the locker room and in our family room. It’s very difficult to feel God’s peace if we continue to live with broken relationships. Living in a broken world means that we will be hurt by others and we will hurt others. When that happens we have a choice. Make those relationships right and find peace or do nothing and live with little or no peace. Jesus stated that peace in our relationships is of critical importance... “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” —Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)


As a pastor, I rarely preach this verse because I never want the offering to be interrupted! (You catch my drift?) But seriously, Jesus gives us steps to take to make things right and find peace. It’s on us, not the other person, to take the first step. How about you start walking today? 1. Go—Take the first step, no matter who caused it. 2. Go Now—Don’t wait until you’re “ready.” 3. Go Alone—Don’t hold a pre-meeting with others; don’t gossip. 4. Go to Reconcile—Not to get even; not to punish. 5. Let Go—Forgive, regardless of their response; give up your right to punish.

— Dave Wilson

Song of Solomon

Is 44-48

Thursday “Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.” Proverbs 2:20

The Closed Fist of the Grudge

We’ve all been hurt by someone in the past or maybe even this week. When we are hurt, there’s a strong human tendency within us to hold onto that hurt with a closed fist. We want payback. We want revenge. We want them to get what they deserve. It’s in our human DNA. I love telling the story of Winston Churchill and Lady Astor, a woman in his parliament. They very much disliked each other. It is said that one night at a dinner party they were seated beside one another and Lady Astor said to Churchill, “If you were my husband, I would put poison in your drink.” Churchill quickly responded, “And if you were my wife, I’d drink it!” We laugh because we like payback. Yet payback doesn’t bring us peace. Letting go does. Peter wrote: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” —1 Peter 3:9 Today is your day. Open that hand. — Dave Wilson Is 1-4

II Kings 18:9-19; Ps 46/80/135

Friday “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

The Open Hand of Grace

For decades I talked about God’s peace, but rarely experienced it. One day that all changed. I was sitting on the couch with my wife Ann, watching our three young sons play on the family room floor. I spontaneously said, “Can you believe that my dad left my family when I was the Michael Reaves / Getty Images

age of our boys?” Immediately Ann said, “Someday soon you are going to need to forgive your dad. You will never find peace until you do.” That comment sent me on a journey of forgiving my dad that spanned almost four years. He walked out of my life when I was 7 and at age 33, I gave up my right to punish him and that decision set me free. Author Lewis Smedes writes, “When you forgive someone you set a prisoner free . . . only to discover that you are the prisoner.” For years I thought that by tightly holding onto the bitterness I had toward my dad I was locking him out of my life. The truth is that I was the one imprisoned—I could never really find the peace that Jesus promised me. Since we have been forgiven by God we can now extend that forgiveness to others who don’t deserve it. Just as we didn’t deserve it! If you want God’s peace, you can have it right now by accepting the amazing, forgiving grace of Jesus. When you give that grace away to others, your heart will be flooded with a peace that passes all understanding. — Dave Wilson

Is 5-8

Is 49-53


Going Long Continue reading about the peace of God.

Saturday Philippians 4 & Psalm 29 Sunday Romans 12-14 Is 9-12

Is 54-58

Is 13-17

Is 59-63

“No matter what life throws your way, the best thing you can do is to keep God’s Word at the forefront of your mind. This will help you to renew your mind and trust God with whatever you may face today.” -Matt Forte New York Jets’ running back Dave Wilson serves as the chaplain for the NFL’s Detroit Lions.



WEEK 5 Monday

More to Give

Everything we have comes from Him and is to be used for Him. Nothing He gives us should stop at us, but should pass through us to be used for His Kingdom. We can’t gauge our success on our bank accounts. Money is one God-given asset that we often take on as a burden, struggling to know how to use it or invest it. If God’s intention is for money to pass through us to be used to bless others, we need to be diligent and responsible as we think about giving. If we are stewarding what He has given us in the correct way, God will continually provide in ways we might never have imagined. We often need to reevaluate our hearts and efforts often to increase our sacrificial giving. God calls us all to give faithfully. He doesn’t want us to worry about how much or how little we give—it’s not about focusing on a certain percentage or number. This past year it was hard for us to discern what our giving should look like. Being out of the league for the first time, we went a whole year without a paycheck. In these circumstances we had to ask, what should our giving look like? We know it’s important to give, but how? Instead of focusing on a certain percentage or formula, we began to watch and listen as opportunities presented themselves. We’ve decided that if something is going to grow the Kingdom and God is calling us to get involved in it, we are going to do so, trusting in Him to provide. And God promises that the joy and peace that comes from Kingdom investment will be tenfold. To see God’s work operate, we need to give financially, but the true reward comes when we see the resulting fruit. This is what draws us to give continually. The reward is where the fruit is. Giving faithfully means giving both financially and physically. Tiffany and I have placed a lot of importance on taking our family to go out and serve others. By giving our time and energy to meet the needs of others, we can show our kids how important it is to give. God has blessed us in so many ways; we are intentional about bringing our kids out of the Northern Dallas bubble (where we could stay comfortable) so that we can show them there’s more to life than our own comfort. Whether we bring our kids to visit hurting children in a hospital or to help feed the victims of a disaster, we want them to experience how to love others the way that Jesus loves. Our joy is not dependent on what we have here on earth; we have a much greater purpose in living for eternity. “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” —Matthew 18:18 — Tyler Clutts, NFL fullback

Is 18-22 66


Is 64-66


Rob Carr / Getty Images

Tuesday “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:7-8

Becoming a Cheerful Giver

The greatest way to measure your understanding of God’s grace in your life is by evaluating how much of it you give back to Him. Christ’s display of grace—the ultimate image of grace—was complete humiliation of self. By denying Himself and taking up our punishment on the Cross, Christ showed us just how much we’re worth to Him. How much is Christ worth to you? This isn’t just a matter of monetary sacrifice, but of wholeself, life-altering surrender to the One who rescued you from the grave. How much of your time, your energy, your thoughts, your praise, your attention, your image, your sport, and your future are you giving God? In the passage above, the Apostle Paul explains that our God loves a cheerful giver. We mustn’t give out of duty or because a guilty conscience convinces us that we should (though sometimes our obedience needs to start there), our giving must be a result and a producer of the joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction we have in Christ. When we give, we are taking part in Kingdom advancement! What greater effort could we pour all our resources into than that which is everlasting? — The Increase

Is 23-27

II Kings 20-21

Wednesday “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Corinthians 9:6

The Gospel Harvest

The Apostle Paul is explaining that what you do directly affects outcomes. This verse isn’t saying that whatever you intend to do will affect your life, but what you do. This is not a prosperity Gospel message—not in the least. Paul is talking about the Gospel harvest. It’s a call to action. An athlete needs more than good intentions and high hopes to achieve success in their sport. Tyler Clutts didn’t get to the NFL by dreaming about playing football, he trained hard, he played hard, and he found results. In the same way, as he gives what he’s been blessed with back to God for His glory, he’s experiencing great joy for himself while seeing lives being impacted around him. This is the type of fruit that Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians—the Gospel harvest. Tyler isn’t seeing a need and only praying that it would be filled, he is stepping in and meeting that need. Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is,


there your heart will be also.” (NIV) By investing our lives and placing our treasure in the plans of God for the purpose of glorifying Him, our hearts will grow more and more in sync with His. That’s when we experience Gospel transformation going to work in our lives, and the lives of those around us.

— The Increase

Is 28-30 II Chron 32-33

Thursday “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” 2 Corinthians 9-10

the same way, we are to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. We live in a culture that advocates for and rewards those who independent. The selfie mindset is one aimed at gratifying . . . ourselves. We want people to know at all times where we are, what we’re doing, and how good we look doing it. Why? Because we want the attention. But this couldn’t be more drastically different from the life and mindset of Christ! Christ didn’t #bless others, He didn’t post claims about his intentions to get more involved in church, He did it. He loved others in action and in truth. How can the love of Christ be actively and truthfully displayed in your life today?

It’s Game Time

Leftovers. Who doesn’t love a piece of last night’s lasagna or a bowl of chili that’s been improving in the fridge for a few days? Often times a great meal tastes even better the next day! But we would never consider serving up yesterday’s best to our future in-laws or potential boss, would we? So why would contemplate giving our leftovers to God? When you arrive at the field before the big game, your coach expects you to be well-rested, well-fed, and ready to compete at full-strength. In the same way, God calls us to give the best that we have to Him. David says, “I will sing of Your strength, in the morning I will sing of Your love” (Psalm 59:16, NIV). The very first thing David is committing to do with his day is to give glory to God. This is the type of life-giving service that God takes joy in and expects from His people. Think about it: Every day that you wake up is a gift from God to be used to glorify Him! Why would we skimp on fulfilling our main purpose in life, wasting our best efforts to pursue temporary goals? How might you be able to glorify God with your best today?

— The Increase

Is 31-35


Friday “If someone has enough money to live well

and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:17

The Selfie Culture

We know what love is when we look at the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth, not to fulfill His own mission or to satisfy His own desire, but to fulfill the mission of God. He did not live a life of self-fulfillment but laid his own life down to serve and minister to us, because of the great love He has for us! And in

— The Increase

Is 36-41 II Kings 22-23; II Chron 34-35


Going Long Continue reading about living generously. Saturday Matthew 6 & Matthew 19:13-30 Sunday 1 Timothy 6 & Luke 12 Is 42-44


Is 45-48

Jer 1-3

“Tiffany and I have placed a lot of importance on taking our family to go out and serve others. By giving our time and energy to meet the needs of others, we can show our kids how important it is to give. God has blessed us in so many ways; we are intentional about bringing our kids out of the Northern Dallas bubble (where we could stay comfortable) so that we can show them there’s more to life than our own comfort.” -Tyler Clutts NFL fullback SPORTS SPECTRUM


WEEK 6 Monday

No Matter What

My 2015 postseason with the Mets was a really special time for me. Not only was I playing really well, but my relationship with the Lord was thriving. Each day I would go into the ballpark, grab my lunch, and head into our conference room for a while before stepping onto the field. As I sat down to eat I would open God’s Word and begin to dive into the Proverbs. Just as with any practice you continually engage in, these Proverbs started to stick in my mind. Walking onto the field for the game, I would replay these verses in my head and experience a great peace about whatever situation I was in. Heading into the batter’s box I would be chewing on what I read that day. The wild thing is that during that time I hit a series of homers and therefore people kept wanting to interview me after each game. For those seven games I was able to have my heart in a really good place for those interviews. Having God’s Word on my heart in those moments allowed me to intentionally deflect the attention off of myself so that I could see those around me and lift them up. There’s a difference between deflecting praise because as a Christian you’re supposed to, and deflecting praise with an authentic and thankful heart. The second attitude is much more rewarding and fulfilling than simply going through the motions. After those games I made a few errors in the World Series. But what was really cool for me to realize was that Jesus loved me just as much in that moment as He did when I was hitting those seven home runs. He loves me when I’m at the mountaintop and He loves me when I’m in the valley—there’s not one moment when He is pouring out less of Himself for me. But Jesus loves you enough. He doesn’t need you to perform. His love is not dependent on your circumstances, your notoriety, or your success—He loves you for you. I tend to always think that the harder I work, the better I’ll get. It’s easy to think the harder I work for Jesus, the more He’ll love me but that’s just not true. He couldn’t love me any more than He already does! And It’s in these moments that I experience and understand the truth of His Word. “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.” —Proverbs 17:3 Baseball is one of those areas for me; I’ve always struggled with finding my identity on the field. But God continues to show me that I am uniquely loved, not because of what the scoreboard reads or what the media says, but because of what Jesus did. No matter what I may be going through, my identity is found in Him. —Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals second baseman

Is 49-53 68


Jer 4-6

Patrick Smith / Getty Images T O S U B S C R I B E T O S P O R T S S P E C T R U M : C A L L 8 4 4 - 8 0 7 - 7 6 7 8

Tuesday “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—” John 1:12


Identity is something all human beings wrestle with. Most people cannot detach what they do or have done from who they are. Daniel could have easily gotten wrapped up making his identity out of his successes and failures. Because of the fall in Genesis 3, we know that man will often look to his hands to find his worth. If Daniel chose to allow his résumé to define him, he would be living life on a rollercoaster of great highs and devastating lows. Where does your worth come from? What lies central in your soul will manifest itself when trials arise. Trials are not just bad things, as we see with Daniel’s story, trials can also happen in the midst of good times. The problem with the good times is that we are less likely to evaluate the trial properly and are in great danger of becoming complacent. If you look back at the last year of your life and see that you’re pretty much the same and understand God the same way—you haven’t experienced any real movement—then you’re stuck. Jesus is a river of life and He is on the move. Get out of the pond! Your résumé is a pond, but when you place your identity in Jesus, you’ll be able to have peace and rest even when the current picks up and you encounter the rapids.

— Brian Hommel

Is 54-58

Jer 7-9

Wednesday “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6


Our thoughts affect our feelings. Our feelings affect our actions. And it’s our actions that set the course of our destiny. Daniel had to come to the field each day with the right thoughts about who he is in order to freely enjoy the process of life without being attached to the results. As he stepped up to the plate and processed the proverb of the day, the truths of the Gospel had great impact on how he viewed himself as well as how he handled the trials that flow within the game. What if he approached the game with thoughts of trying to be “the man?” Would he not then be carrying the weight of the team on his shoulders, which would in turn affect his ability to do his job? The amount of pressure he would be placing on himself to succeed would be crippling. That one thought would impact his feelings, and it’s our feelings that move us to action. He might as well step up the plate swinging a 60-ounce bat with a weight on it. This is what happens to all of us when find ourselves seeking


the approval of others. “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” —Galatians 1:10 The only way to please God is by trusting Him. — Brian Hommel

Is 59-63 Jer 10-13

Thursday “Those who trust in themselves are

fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.” Proverbs 28:26


I’ll say it again: Our thoughts affect our feelings. Our feelings affect our actions. And it’s our actions that set the course of our destiny. If I’m aiming at a target from a half-mile away and my scope is off just by a small fraction I could miss my target as much as 50 feet. Think about that. How do we know if we are having right thoughts about God? Daniel spends each day reading the Word of God, and as he meditates on what he’s reading, it begins to affect not just his thoughts but also his feelings. We are not to be led by our feelings but we are to be moved by them. If I live life without feelings then how would I move? Would I not get stuck? When Daniel made those errors he didn’t allow how he felt about himself in that moment determine his identity. Nor did he project how he felt about himself onto others—especially not onto God. He understood that God loves him and does not base His love for Daniel upon how he performed that day. That would be a conditional love-based relationship. Most of us have way too many of those and as a result we often really struggle to trust that God loves us unconditionally. “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” —Romans 5:1

— Brian Hommel

Is 64-66 Jer 14-17

Friday “Whatever you do, work at it with all your

heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24


Once again: Our thoughts affect our feelings. Our feelings affect our actions. And it’s our actions that set the course of our destiny. “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” —1 John 3:18 The trials that Daniel went through revealed something about his faith—they revealed that his faith in Jesus is legit. His correct thoughts

about Jesus affected his feelings and forced him into action when trials surfaced. Daniel doesn’t take batting practice after the game, but before the game starts so that he is better prepared to play. If you have not put in the work and time to deepen your relationship with Jesus before the trial comes, when it arrives you won’t have much to stand on in order to endure. In fact, there is high probability that you will get tossed around on the waves of the sea. Daniel has a new destiny and it’s not one that brings honor to his name, but one that brings honor to the King of Kings. This doesn’t mean he won’t wrestle, from time to time, with trying to pen his own story, but if he does, he will recognize that story has a dead end to it. We must allow Jesus to take the pen and write His story in our lives. His story has a destiny to it that echoes into eternity. — Brian Hommel

Jer 1-3

Jer 18-22


Going Long Continue reading about how to find your identity in Christ this weekend. Saturday 2 Peter 1 and Psalm 1 Sunday James 1 and 2 Timothy 1-2 Jer 4-6

Jer 23-25

Jer 7-9

Jer 26-29

“...I’ve always struggled with finding my identity on the field. But God continues to show me that I am uniquely loved, not because of what the scoreboard reads or what the media says, but because of what Jesus did. No matter what I may be going through, my identity is found in Him.” -Daniel Murphy Washington Nationals second baseman Brian Hommel serves as the chaplain for the MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks.



WEEK 7 Monday

Living With Uncertainty

I lived my whole life a baseball player, wanting to do nothing else but play baseball. Up until I was 20 years old, I sought after this game with my heart, soul, strength, and mind. Alongside my pursuit of being a baseball player was my pursuit of taking on what I thought was the persona of a baseball player—I talked, walked, and acted in the way I thought the world expected of baseball players. This hindered my relationship with my parents, my brother, and my friends (who were really just guys that I partied with). I didn’t really have true relationships nor did I know what true relationships even looked like. This all culminated in the last game of my sophomore season at Washington State. I had a great year, my draft status looked good, and everything seemed to be coming together for me. But my heart was riddled with sin—I was completely lost. After that last game I went to a party where I ended up breaking my pitching hand, leaving everything in question. Would I need surgery? Would my draft status be preserved going into my junior year? The entire plan I had in place for my life seemed to be crumbling before me. I was terrified. I had almost no knowledge of Jesus Christ, a single story in the Bible, what a church service looked like, or even what a Christian song sounded like. Yet this was the only thing I had ever heard was permanent—the one thing that could never be taken away from you once you had it… So I made a decision right then. Upon hearing the Gospel clearly for the first time, I immediately dove headfirst into Christianity and into being a disciple of Jesus Christ. I had no idea what that meant, I didn’t know the cost of discipleship (Luke 9:57-62), and I had no idea that my life was about to change drastically. All I knew was that when I was saved, I was no longer a slave to my circumstances. Little did I know that Adam Conley’s life would be wrecked by Christianity, and I would have no regrets about that at all. In fact, as ironic and foolish as it would sound to the world, I had found my life by losing it. The things of this world that I had thought would bring my security, comfort, and fame failed me. The Bible says that the message of the Cross is foolishness to the world, but I am no longer of the world’s kingdom. I chose to be part of another Kingdom that is both now and yet to come, and with that choice comes the security of knowing I’ll be spending eternity in paradise with my Creator. “For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” —1 Corinthians 1:18 — Adam Conley, Miami Marlins pitcher

Jer 10-13 70


Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

Jer 30-31


Tuesday “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Surrender to God’s Power

The world is an all-consuming machine, in constant conflict with our new nature in Christ. Marketing, advertising, and social pressures are just a few of the things that fill our lives daily with lies. Conforming to the world will leave us hurt, lonely, and disappointed. Don’t try to live up to the standards and practices of the world; instead, surrender your life to Jesus! This is will began a chain reaction of change in your heart, mind, and life. Only when your heart is in a place of total surrender to Jesus will your mind be ready for transformation, and then you can experience God’s will for your life. This transformation takes place when we engage in God’s Word, and here is where the Holy Spirit begins to work in our hearts to make us more Christ-like and less like the world. Knowing God’s incredible plan for your life begins by surrendering your heart to Jesus. It’s not enough just to eliminate certain things in our lives, it’s vital that we replace them with the right things. Change begins when we fill our minds with whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…think about these things. (Philippians 4:8).

— Chris Lane

Jer 14-17

Jer 32-34

Wednesday “And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’” Mark 2:4-5 (NKJV)

It Takes Committed Faith

When you read this in context, an unbelievable true story unfolds. Four friends who wanted desperately to see their paralyzed friend encounter Jesus had to overcome many obstacles, distractions, and maybe even doubt. But in the end, Jesus sees their faith and touches the paralyzed man’s life, healing him both physically and spiritually! Undoubtedly they knew that if they got their friend to Jesus, his life would be changed forever. What about you? Do you have a friend who needs to be introduced to Jesus so their life can be changed? What are you doing about it? Have you given up? Do you feel like there is no hope? Read the entire passage (v. 1-12) and you’ll see that they


overcame many obstacles to get their friend to Jesus. Are you willing to do what it takes to have compassionate faith (recognizing your friend is lost), convicted faith (knowing Jesus can bring life-change), and a committed faith (going the extra mile to bring your friend to Jesus)? Who do you know that needs to be introduced to Jesus? Pray for that person to come to Jesus and begin looking for opportunities to invite them to meet Him. — Chris Lane

Jer 18-22

Jer 35-37

Thursday “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1

Changing Priorities

God’s Word teaches us that we have a new nature once we are in Christ. Colossians 3 tells us that our priorities are now different. We’re no longer living to please an earthly nature but rather to please God, setting our hearts and minds on things above. So then, what are the things above? This passage is referring to things that will last and not fade away. Matthew 6:19-20 tells us to store up our treasures in Heaven. Our priorities change along with our new nature, so now we focus on things that will last. Two of those things are the Word of God and the soul of man. To make it simple, the things we invest our time and effort in should be God’s Word and people—two things that will last forever. It is so important for us to daily check our priorities. As we evaluate our days and look over our calendars, we ask, “Are my priorities in line? How am I spending my time?” Is God’s Word important to you? Are you investing in relationships? The things of this world can get in the way of what is really important and our priorities can get out of order. Don’t let that happen today. Focus on what matters most: God’s Word and people. Let others know how much God loves them.

— Chris Lane Jer 23-25 Jer 38-40; Ps 74/79

Friday “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3

Joy-Filled in a Stress-Filled World

We seem to be living in a very stress-filled world. Everyone is in a hurry, expectations are high, everyone is demanding things from us and stress and anxiety set in. At times, we may feel paralyzed by the hectic pace and craziness of life. Where do we find rest and peace? In 1 Peter 1, we find great comfort. Instead of living in the false expectations of the world, we live in the truth of God’s Word and these great principles:

1. We live under the Mercy of God. Since we are in Christ, we don’t get what we deserve. We are forgiven and we get Christ and Heaven! 2. We have new life in which we share in the goodness of Christ and a living hope here on earth. We now live in the confidence and assurance of His great love for us. 3. We have an inheritance in Heaven that Jesus has prepared for us. This is great news! Earth is not our home; it’s just a temporary dwelling for us. Let the stress and anxiety of the day roll off. Rely on the comfort of these truths and remember: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” —Philippians 4:6. — Chris Lane

Jer 26-29

II Kings 24-25; II Chron 36


Going Long Continue reading about having faith in God’s transforming power. Saturday Hebrews 11 & 1 Peter 1 Sunday Mark 9:1-29 & 2 Thessalonians 2-3 Jer 30-31


Jer 32-34

Jer 41-45

“So I made a decision right then. Upon hearing the Gospel clearly for the first time, I immediately dove headfirst into Christianity and into being a disciple of Jesus Christ. I had no idea what that meant, I didn’t know the cost of discipleship (Luke 9:5762), and I had no idea that my life was about to change drastically.” -Adam Conley Miami Marlins pitcher Chris Lane serves as the chaplain for the MLB’s Miami Marlins.



WEEK 8 Monday

High Expectations

I always want to do my best in every aspect of my life, as for the Lord, but often my competitiveness drives me to accept only perfection from myself; that’s not from the Lord. Coming off of my injury last season, I have a burning desire to be right back where I was in my pitching and when spring training first began this year I went in with high expectations to perform. When I found I wasn’t quite there yet, it discouraged me. The Lord quickly brought me to a place of humility. My teammate told me of his slow comeback from an injury which encouraged and reminded me of the Lord’s faithfulness. I didn’t need to reach perfection right away, I needed to accept grace in failure and remind myself that this was the first time I was throwing to hitters since my injury last May; I shouldn’t expect to be perfect! I know I’ll have thoughts of insecurity about my game at times, as many of us do. When these doubts surface, they reveal how much I truly trust in God and His plan. I’m not saying that the Lord’s plan is for me to be the best player out there—maybe it’s not—but whether or not I make it to the Majors, I want to offer up my career and my life to God for His glory. Whenever I try to close a tight fist around my life, that’s when these doubts and fears can have a crippling effect in my heart. When doubts begin to surface, I don’t try to deny that they’re there. I go before the Lord in humility and admit my fears. Being honest with God through prayer and confessing my struggles to other believers gives me freedom. The Lord uses His Word and His people to lead us back to His truths so that we don’t give in to the lies that the enemy will throw at us when we are most vulnerable. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” —James 5:16 The more I take these moments to God and to other believers, the more quickly I am able to recognize these thoughts when they come around the next time. In the same way, I want my brothers and sisters to come to me with what they’re facing so that I can help carry their burdens and point them back to Christ. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” —Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Redemption within the body of Christ requires us to be vulnerable with each other in our moments of weakness so that we can then build each other up. — Mark Appel, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher

Jer 35-37 72


Brace Hemmelgarn / Getty Images

Jer 46-48


Tuesday “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God.” Colossians 3:23 (MSG)

Jesus As My Only Audience

When I made it to the Big Leagues, I tried hard not to forget these words from Byron Ballard: “Remember, Dave—when you get to the Big Leagues, Jesus is your only audience.” When we think about glorifying God as professional athletes, one asks “How do you do that?” I believe it’s more than just going out and playing to the best of my ability. It’s more than just not showing anger when things don’t go my way. I believe that glorifying God is a way of life, and that way of life is the reflection of Him inside of me, displaying everything that He’s done for us. Remembering that Jesus is my only audience motivates me to live my life by the love that God has shown for me through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. So when I played, I reflected that love by playing to the best of my ability. I enjoyed the game as much as I could and I had as much fun as I possibly could as a team player. In the end, I believe that the thing that glorified and reflected God the most throughout my baseball career was my love for the game and for my teammates. — Dave Dravecky

Jer 38-41

Jer 49-50

Wednesday “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2 (NLT)


In the game of baseball, one can be humbled rather quickly. Whether it’s through a hanging slider that ends up being a home run, going 0-4, or an injury, baseball can be a very humbling game. Mark Appel shared how discouraged and humbled he was when he realized he wasn’t ready for a comeback from his injury quite yet. In humility, he needed to trust God and others with the truth about his condition. I once read in a book by Brennan Manning that humility is living a life of honesty. I like that, because in the midst of being honest I acknowledge my need for God and His love. Humility requires trust in God. I realize, in my weakness, that I need to trust God and others with the true me! When I trust Him for my salvation, I am expressing humility and my need for a Savior. By this amazing love that God has for us, we can trust Him while we live lives of honesty and humility. Humility revolves around the wonderful understanding that it was He who first loved us, not that we first loved Him. We need to be reminded of this every day! Pride and greed are the fruit that comes from trusting in our own abilities, but when we live


humbly, trusting in God, we will bear the good fruit of the Spirit. — Dave Dravecky

Jer 42-45

Jer 51-52

Thursday “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” —Galatians 6:2 (NLT)


I’ll never forget a specific time when I was speaking to a group of men in Florida...I did not want to be there. I was struggling with depression but refusing to admit it. I was hiding my pain, unwilling to expose it for fear of what others might think. After some encouragement from my wife and a few friends, I went out and told those men the truth. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to share my faith. Oh, and by the way, I was depressed. You could hear a pin drop. Instead of getting up and leaving, those men surrounded me, validated my pain, and encouraged me with their care and concern. For the first time, I realized I didn’t have to carry that burden alone. Most of the time, community doesn’t look as big as speaking to a large group of people. When Mark Appel talked about sharing his struggles with a friend, he spoke about the real power we find in community. There’s nothing like a few good friends—even one—who will love you through your deepest hurts when you can trust them enough to share those things. One of the beautiful things about authentic community is that you’re not there to fix, to judge, or be critical of one another. Instead you’re there to share each other’s burdens, love each other in the midst of your pain, and walk alongside one another.

— Dave Dravecky Jer 46-47 Lam 1-2

Friday “Then you will experience for yourselves the truth and the truth will free you.” John 8:32 (MSG)

The Power of Confession

As I read Mark’s devotional, this statement struck me: “Being honest with God through prayer and confessing my struggles to other believers gives me freedom.” I don’t know about you, but I can tell you from personal experience that this is so true. This is a Scriptural truth that really does set us free. Think about this for a minute. How do you feel when you sin and you don’t tell anyone? For me, guilt enters in almost immediately. And the longer I keep it in, the more I want to hide it. If I don’t deal with this unresolved sin, I may find myself in a very destructive cycle which, in the end, hurts not only me but also those around me. That is why Mark’s statement is so powerful! He chose to confess his struggles and in doing so, he no longer had to carry the weight of that sin. Like King David, his guilt dissolved and his

sin disappeared. “When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became day-long groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. Then I let it all out; I said, ‘I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.’ Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.” —Psalm 32:3-5 (MSG) — Dave Dravecky

Jer 48

Lam 3-3:36


Going Long Continue reading about placing your trust in God alone. Saturday Galatians 3 & 2 Kings 5:13-15 Sunday Colossians 3 & Luke 12 Jer 49-50

Lam 3:37-5:22

Jer 51-52

Ezek 1-4

“When doubts begin to surface, I don’t try to deny that they’re there. I go before the Lord in humility and admit my fears. Being honest with God through prayer and confessing my struggles to other believers gives me freedom. The Lord uses His Word and His people to lead us back to His truths so that we don’t give in to the lies that the enemy will throw at us when we are most vulnerable.” -Mark Appel Philadelphia Phillies pitcher

Dave Dravecky is a former MLB pitcher.



WEEK 9 Monday

Authentic Brotherhood

One thing I really love about my teammates is their authenticity. They are true to who they are, not pretending to be someone they’re not. It’s so much fun to play alongside these men who are honest, humble, and dedicated to their team. For those of us who have been on the team for a while now, we’re really starting to understand each other and build a family-like atmosphere. When you’re able to play in a brotherhood like this, you see a winning atmosphere being created. Alex Cobb, Chase Whitley, and I have found a community with each other where we can challenge, encourage, and grow closer to God together. The three of us are able to really energize and uplift one another; within this brotherhood we can really feel the presence and blessing of the Lord. Desiring to go deeper with each other in our faith and friendship, we’ve committed to meeting daily with each other, whether over breakfast or by our lockers, to check in and share what’s on our hearts. I’ve seen incredible growth in my own life as a result of these men’s fellowship. One day Chase and Alex approached me about something that they had observed in my life—something that was manifesting itself on the field. I didn’t have wrong intentions in my heart, but I was coming across in a way that demonstrated less-thanChristlike behavior. Out of genuine care and concern for me, they pointed out to me the way my apparent attitude was playing out in certain situations on the field and encouraged me to be more careful about how I act so that I can be a good light for Christ. I immediately recognized what they were saying and was surprised at how I had not been able to see this. Thankful for their desire to lead me on a good path, I began to pay closer attention to my responses and actions during the game. Being able to give and receive this type of instruction only comes from the fact that we trust and love each other. Getting to know and care for each other has allowed us to open up to freely give and receive criticism. Alex and Chase approached me that day because they love me and want the best for me, and I would do the same for them in a heartbeat. This type of daily community and faithful accountability is what Jesus calls us to find with our brothers and sisters. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” —Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

—Steven Souza, Tampa Bay Rays right fielder

Lam 1-3:36 74


Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

Ezek 5-8


Tuesday “While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.” Matthew 12:46

Belonging to the Brotherhood

In his book titled, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger argues that we as human beings have a strong instinct to belong to small groups that are defined by clear purpose and understanding. In fact it’s true—we have been created by God to live in family-like community (with Himself and others) for a clear and specific purpose. Team sports often have a way of meeting our inherent need for belonging. We come, work, win, and even fail together, developing intimate relationships among our teammates. Ask any former player what they miss the most about the game, almost every one of them will mention their teammates. God created man and immediately declared it is not good for man to be alone. Jesus said that we are to be closer to a group of His followers than we are to our own families and that those around us will know we are His people if we have love for one another. Many think of church as an entertaining event instead of an expression of family-like love. It was never intended to be this way. You were uniquely designed by God to belong to a like-minded brotherhood characterized by a family-like love working together with a specific purpose. As the tribe of Jesus Christ, we are to come together and live for Him, bearing one another’s burdens, building one another up, and looking out for one another in love. In this kind of brotherhood, our hearts will feel most at home. Read Luke 14:26 and John 13:35. — Terry Evans

Lam 3:37-5

Ezek 9-12

Wednesday “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

Understanding Fellowship

Thursday mornings are the highlight of my week. I wake up early and go to one of my favorite coffee shops in the city to spend two hours in fellowship with ten men who have become like family to me. But what exactly do I mean by the word fellowship? Many of us fail to realize that we can get together with like-minded people to talk about our common faith and yet still fail to experience authentic Biblical fellowship. Fellowship is more than getting together; it is taking part in something bigger than ourselves together. The Book of Acts gives us a glimpse of the early church and the type of missional fellowship that they experienced. Together they were


studying, praying, and caring for those in need, all for the sake of the Gospel. Paul described it later as a partnership in a purpose much bigger than the people themselves (Philippians 1:5). If we want to experience this kind of authentic fellowship, we must start by focusing our attention on Christ rather than focusing on each other and our unity as the goal. Often the team most focused on winning the World Series ends up being the team that also experiences the greatest level of unity and closeness in the clubhouse. The more we are all committed to concentrating on the mission that Christ has given us, the more we too will find ourselves coming closer together. Read Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:23-37 and Ephesians 4:11-16. — Terry Evans

Ezek 1-4

Ezek 13-15

Thursday “So God created mankind in his own

image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:27-28

One Mission for Mankind

I often wonder how many of us get saved but then find ourselves unsure of what to do next. It seems that many of us view the Christian life as a life of just maintaining our salvation instead of a mission to help save others. As followers of Jesus, we need to wake up and realize that we were meant to be more than residents of this world; we’re revolutionaries. From Genesis to Revelation, God has had one mission for mankind: To multiply and extend His glory to the ends of the earth. This is commonly referred to as the Great Commission—making disciples of Jesus. When we view our salvation only as the forgiveness of sins and entrance into Heaven, it can lead us to view the Christian life as a life of optional things to do until we get to Heaven. We assume that we are following Christ by filling up our time with “Christian activity” when instead we are to be devoting our time to what Christ wants accomplished. You are more than God’s resident in this world, you were meant to be one of His revolutionaries who helps reconcile this world to Him. The world will not be moved by people whose most radical thought is arriving at Heaven someday. This mission of God is the purpose of life. We are to reflect His character, represent His Kingdom, and reproduce more people who love, serve, honor, worship, and obey Him. Read Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:6-8. — Terry Evans

Ezek 5-8 Brian Bahr / Getty Images

Friday “When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the

Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:31-35

Grow Together

I enjoy working out, but I find it extremely difficult to work out at the level that will produce the results I want when I’m working out on my own. In my experience, having a workout partner or group always pushes me to train harder, producing greater results. The same concept can be applied to our spiritual lives. How many of us keep our spiritual lives private? How many of us keep our struggles and sin secret, believing that we can overcome them if we just keep trying harder? If we try to grow closer to God all on our own, we will not get the results that we want. Scripture tells us that God has gifted each one of us in various ways and that we are commanded to use those gifts for the purpose of encouraging, equipping, and exhorting the family of God. We need encouragement to stay energized, we need to be equipped to be effective in the mission, and we need to be exhorted in order to stay focused and faithful. You were created to grow with like-minded followers of Christ, contributing to the familylike love that should characterize every small community of Christ’s followers. You will not get the results you want when you set out to serve God on your own. When each person plays their part in the effort to grow together as a family, our Father is glorified and we become stronger, healthier, and overall better children of God. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and Ephesians 4:1-16. — Terry Evans

Ezek 9-12

Ezek 18-19


Going Long Continue reading about about authentic Christian fellowship this weekend.

Saturday Acts 2 & 1 Corinthians 14:26 Sunday Philippians 1 & James 5:13-20

Ezek 13-15

Ezek 20-21

Ezek 16-17

Ezek 22-23

Terry Evans serves as the chaplain for the MLB’s Atlanta Braves.



WEEK 10 Monday

Christ in Me

Baseball is a unique platform because we have fans from all over that come to watch the games. If I can live out my Christian life through baseball, allowing others to see Christ in me, then I’m able to use this platform for God’s glory. But that doesn’t apply only to my life on the baseball field. I can be a witness for Christ at the grocery store in the same way I can on the pitching mound; neither arena is more important than the other. The only difference is that with baseball there are a lot more people watching. My perspective in life changed when I decided to fully give my all to Christ in 2012. Since then I’ve realized that for every person that I pass by, whether they are a fan or a homeless person on the street, I may be the only chance they have to see Christ. That’s a huge responsibility as well as an amazing opportunity. “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” —Philippians 4:13 Baseball has always been my passion. When I was seven years old I looked at my dad and told him that I wanted to be a Major League pitcher. Two things of the many things that I’ve learned from the game of baseball are hard work and dedication. I would never have gotten this far in my baseball career if my work ethic didn’t grow and keep growing. I’ve always been willing to do whatever it takes in order to get the job done. Whether that be in season or off season, I’ve learned to be dedicated to the game. I think that’s a great life lesson and something I will take into my career after baseball as well. It’s a lesson that I’ve applied to my faith walk. There was a time, however, when I might have been too dedicated to the game of baseball. I was so drawn into this game that my relationships suffered and I sacrificed almost everything to be the best I could be. I still love the game and give my all while I’m on the field, but once I began to take my walk with Christ more seriously, I realized that baseball is what I do, it’s not who I am. I still work hard to be the best player I can be, but I do that because God’s called me to do that, and I love it. I consider it a blessing, but not my identity. God’s given each of us a different talent and we’re supposed to use those talents to glorify Him. As I play and perform at my best, I know that I’m honoring the One who gave me that talent, and it’s a joy to do so. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” —1 Peter 4:10 — JJ Hoover, Major League pitcher

Ezek 18-20 Job 17-20



Norm Hall / Getty Images

Ezek 24-27 Prov 10-12


Tuesday “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to the others.” Romans 12:4-5

Team Unity Through Diversity

This year the Giants’ Minor League Spring training started with 190 players from all walks of life with one goal: Get on a team. Once on a team, their goal is to come together as one under the guidance of their coaches who lead them toward one goal. When a team of diverse personalities and backgrounds can come together for a long season and unite under one purpose, great things happen. Just as players have different abilities and roles on the team, we as Christians come from all parts of the world, having been strategically placed where we are by God. We have different roles within the body of Christ and together, through faith, we are all under the Word of God to fulfill the purpose that He has for us. Recognize the incredible uniqueness of God’s people around you. Great things happen when unity comes within diversity. The best example we have of this is in the Trinity—three members who play crucial roles for one purpose. In creation, God the Father speaks and initiates, the redemption of creation is accomplished through Jesus, and is sustained by the Holy Spirit’s presence. My prayer is that we can come together in unity so the world can see a body that truly represents Christ.

— Eddie Taubensee

Ezek 21-22

Ezek 24-27

As Christians, we can be strong in the Lord when we face our spiritual enemy by putting on the armor of God (Ephesians. 6:10-18). We are called to put on, and keep on, God’s armor because, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV). We know that we can stand firm against our enemy, Satan, and have victory through faith by the power and protection of God in our lives. As much as we would like to be, we are not superheroes. My prayer is that we would humble our hearts towards God and, through faith, put on the armor He has for us. Face each day wearing His power and protection, and never take it off. — Eddie Taubensee

Ezek 23-24

Ezek 32-34

Thursday “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or

vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:3-7

Your Place In The Game Wednesday “Finally, be strong in the Lord and

in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:10-12

Super Heroes Are Only In Movies

My boys and I can’t get enough of the DC and Marvel movies. I always get caught up in the plot, thinking there is no chance for the heroes, no hope to overcome the opposition they face. It always works out that through some special power or skill they have—and at times with the help of others—victory is assured. There are things in our lives that we can conquer on our own. Our biggest opposition as Christians is not what the world brings to the table, it’s the spiritual opposition from the enemy, Satan. We cannot be the superhero in this type of battle. How can we become strong enough to face this enemy?


We all dream of being in the final moment of the game, where it’s up to us to win. We picture ourselves coming through in the clutch with the team rushing out to bombard us with praise for what we’ve done. There is nothing wrong with great accomplishments that bring attention to how good an athlete you are, but the danger in this can come in the way you start seeing yourself and how that can affect your overall character. How do we handle success? In my last year competing, my lockermate was Travis Fryman. He played 13 seasons in MLB, was a 5-time All-Star, and he won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. I will never forget what he shared about how he used to deal with the attention and awards that came his way. Whenever he received any kind of praise or award, he would be appreciative, but would not hold onto it for long. Instead he placed any positive merit at the feet of Jesus where it belongs, not allowing the praise to have any kind of foothold to elevate himself over his teammates. Travis was an amazing player, but he was an even greater leader.

When we humble ourselves, we will start to think less of ourselves and start thinking of our teammates more. This is the attitude we need to have—it’s the one Christ Jesus had Himself. Where do you place yourself on your team? Will you have the same attitude as Jesus?

— Eddie Taubensee

Ezek 25-27

Ezek 35-37

Friday “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Be Careful Looking Ahead, Today Is Enough

Every athlete wants to have a successful season—one they can be proud of at the end. But many times we struggle with physical performance and the mental battles that come along with our sport. When we start to fall behind of the standards we set for ourselves, we tend to dig a bigger hole by worrying about how long it may take to get back where we want to be. But we cannot worry about the whole season or about all the things outside our control, we can only control what we do today—focusing on the job at hand. Plenty of things come at us that can cause us to worry. Many are legitimate concerns, but a lot of the things we worry about never come to pass, and we tend to make more of other things than they really are. Instead we need to throw everything God’s way (1 Peter 5:7). God cares for us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to save us. And because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we can know peace through the Holy Spirit (John 14:27). Life as an athlete isn’t easy; life in general isn’t easy. We are all going to deal with times of worrying and fear. It’s refreshing to know we are told to cast ALL our worries to God. Will you throw everything God’s way, knowing how much He cares for you? — Eddie Taubensee

Ezek 28-30

Ezek 38-39


Going Long Continue reading about using your gifts for God.

Saturday 1 Corinthians 12 & Ephesians 4 Sunday 1 Peter 4 & Deuteronomy 8 Ezek 31-33 Ezek 40-41 Ezek 34-36

Ezek 42-43

Eddie Taubensee serves as the Director of Baseball Ministries at The Increase and Hitting Coach in the San Francisco Giants Organization. SPORTS SPECTRUM


WEEK 11 Monday

Keep Rowing

God provides in all circumstances. So why do I have a hard time trusting Him? In Luke we see a scene where Jesus is sitting in the back of a boat while a storm is raging— waves are crashing into the sides of the boat, water is flying all over the place, and men are running around trying to keep the boat from going under. All the while, Jesus is just chillin’ in the back… As soon as the men realize that this storm is about to engulf the ship and everyone on board, they see Jesus at peace in the back and wake Him up. “C’mon brother! We’re about to die here and you’re just sleeping? Please help us out!” Jesus replies, “Oh! You need My help? Do you guys not have any faith at all?” He then proceeds to rebuke the wind, waves, and storm—and they obey Him. The entire time these men were trying to figure out the problems, trying to keep their boat afloat, when the answer was right in front of them—waiting for them—the whole time. That’s what I feel my life is like sometimes. I feel the need to do everything on my own, make everyone happy, and get things done all by my own power, while in actuality, the only piece of the puzzle I need is right beside me the whole time. It’s Jesus! Every time I come home after the baseball season, there’s a little transition that needs to happen. My wife isn’t used to me being around and I’m not used to being around her either. I don’t know which side of the family to stay with when we are back. Where do I go to get a job? Do I need to get a job? How many jobs can I commit to? Where will I train this off-season? What’s on my schedule that I don’t know about yet? If you’re anything like me, trying to answer more than one question at a time is stressful in itself. Thankfully, there are answers to all those questions and there will be answers for all future questions. The answers will come from Someone who always knows what’s best for me. When I try to do everything on my own, I’m just like those men on the boat, being tossed by the wind. I’m running and back and forth like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find the quickest, best, and most logical answer (but also considering everyone’s feelings) to a problem that, most of the time, isn’t life or death. I’m just praying that I’ll take this life one day at a time and continue to look to the back of my boat whenever I see a storm brewing ahead. I know that God will have a plan—the plan. By the end of the storm, that’s the plan which happens whether I first try to do things my own way or not. Keep rowing. — David Ledbetter, Pro pitcher.

Ezek 34-36 78 38


Photo courtesy of David Ledbetter.

Ezek 42-43


Tuesday “One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Luke 8:22-25

Peace Is With You

Jesus always believed the best about the disciples and He held them accountable to those standards. In these verses, we see the disciples, former fishermen, in their natural wheelhouse— manning a boat. Jesus believed in the ability of His disciples, He knew what they were capable of. But then arose a windstorm that was too much for them. For the things they couldn’t handle on their own, Jesus’ presence alone made up the difference. They had walked with Jesus long enough to know that He kept His Word. If He said they were going to the other side, to the other side they were going. He is the Prince of Peace. Peace itself was in the boat and they didn’t have the faith to tap into it! If one of the disciples had simply spoken, “Peace is with us, storm, be still!” I believe it would have ceased. The Prince of Peace is still with us. Do we trust Him? Peace is a promise from Jesus (John 16:33). When you’re on your way to the other side of life’s circumstances, be assured that through God’s Word, a peace that passes all understanding is at your grasp whenever you need it. He is in the “Life” boat with you! — LaMorris Crawford

Ezek 37-39

Ezek 44-45

Wednesday “Then Jesus came to them and said,

‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20

Can Jesus Trust Us?

It’s one thing to ponder the question, “Do I trust God?” It’s a completely different thing to consider the question, “Does Jesus trust me?” One of Jesus’ last commands before leaving the earth is written in detail in Matthew 28. One of the key words in this command is “go.” The dictionary defines “go” this way: “To move or proceed, especially to or from something.” Doesn’t this definition carry weight? Action is implied in every aspect. WEB SITE:

The essence of Christianity is action. Jesus, obeying the Father, acted to fulfill hundreds of prophecies. If Jesus is our ultimate example of obedience, shouldn’t we desire to be just like Him? Can Jesus trust us to go? The world is hurting and broken and we have the solution. When Jesus said, “Go,” He gave the command with the expectation that we would act. He was trusting the disciples then and He’s trusting us now to obey. What would be the point of a catcher sending the pitching signal if the pitcher isn’t going to obey it? The catcher trusts the pitcher to throw the pitch that was signaled and prepares himself to receive that pitch. Jesus promised that He would give us every tool necessary to trust this command, providing us with His Spirit, His Word, His body (the Church), and spiritual gifts. He didn’t leave us alone to do what He’s calling us to do. Can Jesus trust us to obey His every command? — LaMorris Crawford

Ezek 40-42

Ezek 46-48

Thursday “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Philippians 2:12

In God We Trust?

I recently needed to get new license plates for our car and the clerk asked me, “What type of plates would you like?” As she went through the options I ended up choosing the plates that say, “In God we trust.” As I sit here and write this devotional I ask myself the question, “How much do I trust God?” In God “we” trust is a very broad statement; we can’t know how everyone else trusts the Lord, but we can know how we trust the Lord. We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Our commitment to trust Jesus with every area of our lives is a personal and willful decision. It starts at home plate, which is the heart. I have the honor of influencing some of the most influential people on the planet (NFL Athletes), and I see this principle constantly. A quarterback must trust his offensive linemen more than any other player on the field. If he doesn’t trust his those guys, he cannot carry out the play. Even more importantly, if the quarterback does not trust himself and his ability to throw a pass, even the best offensive line won’t be successful. The Apostle Paul challenges us to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Trust requires a personal heart examination. Have we put more trust in our jobs? Spouse? Athletic ability? Money? As believers in Jesus Christ we must first put our trust in Christ alone. — LaMorris Crawford

Ezek 43-45

Friday “After that, he appeared to more than five

hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” 1 Corinthians 15:6-8

The Journey of Trust

Have you ever wondered what happened to the other 380 people in this story? We need an APB sent out! 380 disciples were missing! Jesus appeared to 500 brethren and gave a specific command to them to stay in Jerusalem so that they could be “endued with power from upon High.” This wasn’t optional; it was a command. Jesus was telling the disciples to carry out the Great Commission, but not without the Holy Spirit. Jesus never broke His Word. Jesus never lied—He never even told a half-truth. Every word Jesus spoke was life and truth. So where was the miscommunication? Why were there only 120 people in the upper room? I believe the 380 disciples stopped trusting the Word of the Lord. The Church could not be birthed without the power of the Holy Spirit. Every miracle, blessing, and act in the book of Acts took place because of the presence of the Holy Spirit and God wanted all 500 disciples to participate. Was the persecution too great? Was the demand on family too grand? The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches are real—Jesus taught us that in Mark 4. He also promised that persecution would arise for the Word’s sake. Whatever the reason, 380 people missed out on the most powerful moment in the history of the early church. How have we trusted God’s Word? God is still speaking to us today and asking us to take Him at His Word. — LaMorris Crawford

Ezek 46-48

Dan 1-3


Going Long

Continue reading about the power and freedom of trusting God. Saturday Isaiah 41 & Galatians 6:1-10 Sunday James 1-3 & John 3:30

Dan 1-3

Dan 4-6

Dan 4-6

Dan 7-9

LaMorris Crawford serves as the chaplain for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals



WEEK 12 Monday

A Father’s Love

My father died at the end of my sophomore year of high school. He was the most important person in my life, and suddenly he was gone. I didn’t really know God, but I was mad at Him nonetheless. I was confused at why and how He would let this happen. If you’ve ever lost a parent or someone close to you, then you know the overwhelming void that’s created as a result. But thankfully, during that time a couple of men stepped up and loved me well—they were like father figures to me. The first was a man named Roy Silver, who took me into his Christian academy. It was a place where I could play baseball late into the night. Hitting in that batting cage and knocking baseballs into the night’s sky was like my therapy. The second was Darren Roberts, a player in the Florida Marlins organization and an incredible servant. During that time, Darren loved me so much that it made me curious about him and his faith. Over dinner one night, Darren listened to my story. He listened with his eyes—like a good father would. Then, he began telling me about a different Father—One who loved me unconditionally and offered free grace. Darren told me that there was nothing I could do to earn this Father’s love. It was already mine to receive. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 I was blown away. In a world where you have to earn everything, I was being confronted with a Gospel telling me that there’s nothing I can do to earn this free gift! He pointed me to Romans 10:9, which says “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” That’s exactly what I did that night. I confessed Christ as my Savior and accepted His free gift of salvation. Darren didn’t stop there. He kept walking with me as my heart began to radically change. Every step of the way, Darren’s love pointed me toward my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” —1 Peter 1:3 — Chris Coghlan Toronto Blue Jays utility player

Dan 7-9 80


Dan 10-12


Tuesday “For you did not receive the spirit of slav-

ery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8:15 (ESV)

Adopted by the King

Our adoption as sons and daughters of God was not our Creator’s plan B. This was His purpose from before the Creation of the world. God knew exactly what He was doing when He created each one of us and He knew that we would eventually sin against Him. Parents do not decide to adopt a child thinking they will be perfect, in need of no correction. Parents fight for adoption, often experiencing years of waiting, praying, and paperwork so that they can bring a child into their home and shower them with love. The process is emotional, time-consuming, and costly, but to every parent who is able to call that child their own, it’s worth every moment. This is how our Heavenly Father loves us as His children. To Him, we are worth the cost. God’s plan from the beginning included the creation, the fall, redemption, and adoption so that God’s power and mercy would be made known in the truest form. Our adoption as His children brings glory to His Name. And God has promised that His children will one day be made perfect and glorified together with Christ. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to pay the cost for our sins, we have been redeemed into the present joy and eternal inheritance of being a child of God.

Dan 10-12

— The Increase

Ezra 1-3

Wednesday “Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent Me. I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I Myself may be in them.” John 17:25-26

His Favorite Role

Look at the way Jesus talked about His Father and the relationship they have with each other, and then look at how He portrayed that relationship to others. Jesus almost always referred to God as a loving, caring Father. He didn’t often talk about a God who was going to bring judgment or punishment upon the earth (though He is a just God), He spoke passionately about a Father who lovingly cares and provides for His children. This is the Father that Jesus spent His ministry on earth urging us to seek after and get to know. But we have a part to play as well. We need to accept His love and seek to know Him. When we experience who God is, we will be amazed by the awesome power that He has. This same God who is the Creator of the universe, the King of


Kings, and the Lord of Lords, also has another role, perhaps His favorite role—our Father. As we get to know our Father, we cannot help but grow in a love for Him that takes over and permeates every other desire. — The Increase

Hos 1-7

Ezra 4-6; Ps 137

Thursday “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son.” Hebrews 12:5-6

It’s one thing to hear the testimonies of others or to hear someone preach about the love of God, but it’s another thing to experience the power of the Gospel for yourself. The only way for us to truly and personally experience this truth for ourselves is by getting to know our Father—to spend time with Him in prayer, worship, and reading His Word. In order for any relationship to strengthen, both parties need to intentionally seek out and spend time with the other. God, our Father, sent His Son to seek us, save us, and show us His great love. There is no greater sacrifice a Father could make than the One that He did for us. He’s just waiting for us to come running into His loving arms. — The Increase

Adopted as Image-Bearers

Part of being a child of God means that our Father will be disciplining us….often. Any parent that truly loves and cares for their child will do everything in their power to protect, provide for, and train up their child in the right path. Why would we think that our omniscient, all-knowing Heavenly Father won’t do the same? All discipline seems unpleasant in the moment, but every lesson we learn is an opportunity to cultivate Christlikeness. This is the reason God uses trials in our lives: to turn us back to Him. Instead of resisting these moments of discipline, we should be embracing the loving reproof of our Father who wants us to trust Him. He disciplines us because He loves us. If He didn’t, He wouldn’t care how many times we mess up or how far we stray away from Him. Our perfect Father desires for us to conform to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. He will continue to sharpen and prune us until we become a perfect reflection of Him. Instead of seeing this as a burden, we should count it as an honor and a call to action. How is God chipping away at you to be an image-bearer of Christ? How are you responding? — The Increase

Hos 8-14



Zech 1-7


Going Long

Continue reading about our Father’s unending love. Saturday 1 John 3-4 & Psalm 119:68 Sunday John 17 & Psalm 33

Amos 1-5

Zech 8-14

Amos 6-9

Est 1-5

“I was blown away. In a world where you have to earn everything, I was being confronted with a Gospel telling me that there’s nothing I can do to earn this free gift!” -Chris Coghlan, Toronto Blue Jays utility player

Friday “You are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” Galatians 4:6

Who Is He to You?

How do you view God? Do you know God to be a personal God who is alive and active in your life, or do you know God to be “the big man upstairs” who you hear stories about from your pastor on Sunday? What might your life look like if you fully and completely trusted your Heavenly Father? Jesus showed us that God is not only our Creator and the Sustainer of the Universe, He is also our loving Father. His desire is for us—the Lord our God wants a personal relationship with us! Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images


81 81

WEEK 13 Monday

Excellence and Perfection

No matter what they’re doing, most people I meet generally want to do their very best. They usually want to excel in their chosen field, and they’re willing to put in the hard work necessary for that to take place. But there’s a line—a line that’s thin and blurry— that we can so easily cross. With just one false move, belief, or agreement, we step over the line that separates being excellent and being perfect. It’s easy to believe that perfectionism is a good thing. Jesus even seems to command it in the Sermon on the Mount when He says to “be perfect” (Matthew 5:48), but is that really what Jesus is saying? Is He really telling His followers to be perfectionists? My story is the story of someone who might not ever call himself a perfectionist, but who was living as one. I was so scared of letting people down—my family, the owners and coaches of my NFL teams, and the fans. And to be honest, that perfectionism carried over into my relationship with God. I felt like if I didn’t achieve something that was perfect, then I was letting God down. And that’s a terrible place to live. We know that perfectionism has very little lasting value, but it’s so difficult to honestly believe that, and to allow that belief to influence our actions. “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” —Colossians 2:20-23 In these verses Paul talks about how holding ourselves to a standard of perfection has the appearance of wisdom, but in the end only leads us down a path of further self-indulgence. Football injuries were God’s way of leading me away from a life of perfectionism, and into a life of grace. But those injuries weren’t the only thing that helped me experience God’s grace. A few years ago, I had a life-changing conversation with a very important person in my life. I tell that story at So at the end of the day, we need to be excellent in everything we do. But when things don’t go as we’ve planned, we must take comfort in the fact that God is still acting in our lives, and that His posture toward us is still one that is loving and inviting. We are people who have been given the righteousness of Jesus, and that’s a gift that we could never earn on our own. He already loves us that much! And I’m learning to rest in that. — Benjamin Watson, Baltimore Ravens’ tight end

Oba-Jonah 82


Michael Hickey / Getty Images

Est 6-10


Tuesday “Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore…” John 21:4

There He Stands

In the last chapter of the Gospels, John describes a final encounter with Jesus by the Sea of Galilee, which includes one last miracle and a crucial conversation where marching orders are issued. It starts with Jesus standing on the shore. In John 21:3, Peter says “I’m going out to fish,” and Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two others follow him. After a night on the water and an empty net, they head back to find Jesus looking out at them. Imagine what Jesus was feeling as He watched these men in the boat. They spent three years together. He invested so much time, teaching, and emotion in them. They followed, failed, and at times, struggled to understand what Jesus was doing. Yet, they were His disciples—His friends. And here He was, showing up for them again. Psalm 103 describes God as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.” He looks at you as a loving father looks at His child. Knowing how God views you sets the foundation of your relationship with Him. God’s not angry or distant, He looks on you with great compassion. He is for you. You are chosen and loved! As you wake each morning, Jesus stands on the shore. He wants to lead you, longs to be with you, and sees you as His treasured child. Be still, feel His presence, and know His love for you today. — Len Vanden Bos


Ezra 7-10

Wednesday “Feed My sheep.” John 21:17

Feed My Sheep

After a miraculous catch of fish and breakfast with the disciples, Jesus and Peter take a walk. The conversation to follow is one of the most powerful in all of Scripture. It’s only been 40 days since Peter denied Jesus; the sting of his failure is still fresh. Jesus questions Peter’s love for Him three times. All three times, Peter affirms his love, countering the three denials just weeks before. With each declaration, Jesus refocuses Peter on the task at hand: “Feed My sheep.” This dialogue is deliberate and rich in meaning. God has a job for Peter to do, and his failure doesn’t disqualify him. Peter must release his shame and move forward. When they first met Jesus, the disciples were called to be “fishers of men.” They are reminded of this again in Matthew 9 when Jesus refers to the crowds as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd…the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” There’s no shortage of lost people, the shortage is of workers.


God’s greatest desire is to seek and save the lost. This truth is confirmed through Christ’s interactions and teachings, and is driven home in this final conversation with Peter. God not only restores you, but invites you to play a part in His redemptive work. You take part in God’s redemptive plan every time you share His love. Ask God to open your eyes today to ways you can answer the call: “Feed My sheep.”

— Len Vanden Bos


Neh 1-5

Thursday “What about him?” John 21:21

The Comparison Game

As he walked and talked with Jesus, Peter was changing. He was forgiven and had a renewed sense of purpose. He was “the rock” again, ready to build the Church. But Jesus had one final lesson. As they walked, Peter noticed that John, “the disciple that Jesus loved,” was following them. In verse 21, Peter asked, “Lord, what about him?” It seems like an innocent question, but Jesus knew his heart; it revealed a deeper issue. Peter was a competitor. He was bold, outspoken, and the clear leader of the movement. No doubt he took great pride in the fact that he was a key player in God’s plan, but he was not without weaknesses. His struggle with pride was one of them. John was not Peter’s concern. Jesus made that clear when He said, “What is that to you? You must follow Me.” In other words, don’t get distracted. This is about you and Me. It’s so easy to fall into the temptation of comparison. We obsess over what we don’t have and find ways to feel superior to others. This tendency to compare and compete with others can keep us from experiencing true community. God intentionally formed you as one-ofa-kind. God incorporates both your gifts and struggles into the unique mission He has for you. To carry out this mission, you must fix your eyes on Him, not on others around you. Get to know Jesus better each day, and focus on the next step He has for you. — Len Vanden Bos


Neh 6-7

Friday “What’s next, Papa?” Romans 8:15 (MSG)

What’s Next?

The next time we read about Peter is in the book of Acts. He is healing a crippled beggar and boldly preaching at Pentecost. He and John are side by side, taking on the religious leaders of the day with confidence and courage. Acts 4:13 tells us, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, or-

dinary men, they were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus.” They were on their way. They had indeed been with Jesus. Their relationship with Christ served as the foundation for their convictions. They knew who they were and were fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit. It would be an incredibly hard journey, but ultimately so fulfilling to live out their calling. I love the way The Message version translates Romans 8:15: “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, ‘What’s next, Papa?’” How do you greet God each day? The truth is that the same resurrection power that Peter and John experienced is available to you. You are His child and He is your good, good Father. He loves hearing you ask, “What’s next, Papa?” May you live with great expectancy as you reach up and take His hand today, trusting in what He has for you in each moment. — Len Vanden Bos


Neh 8-10


Going Long Continue reading about the faithfulness of Jesus.

Saturday Psalm 103 & Luke 15 Sunday Galatians 6:4-5 & Acts 1-4 Zech 1-7

Neh 11-13; Ps 126

Zech 8-14


“Football injuries were God’s way of leading me away from a life of perfectionism, and into a life of grace. But those injuries weren’t the only thing that helped me experience God’s grace.” -Benjamin Watson, Baltimore Ravens’ tight end

Len Vanden Bos serves as the chaplain for the Buffalo Bills.




The Privilege of Loving God The other day I was thinking about the well-known verse John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” I have quoted this verse so many times that it literally flows off my tongue effortlessly; my guess is that is the same for every follower of Christ. But this week as I was meditating on this verse, I was convicted and I began to ask myself, “Have I become so familiar with the truth of Scripture that I have lost the awe and wonder that once accompanied my devotional time?” The saying is true: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Sometimes I feel like even though I love God, I’m

“Our God is a consuming fire.” —Hebrews 12:29

not sure if I am loving Him with the right attitude. The question that I was wrestling with was, “Am I loving God with an attitude of ‘I have to’, or am I loving Him with an attitude of ‘I get to?’” How do we take our love of God from “I have to” to “I get to?” It starts with allowing the love of God to convict us. “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” —Romans 5:8 Even though I don’t deserve it, God sent His Son to die for my sins. This truth convicts me. Why would God do this? Especially since He knows my wicked and evil thoughts. This conviction does not get me away from an attitude of ‘I have to,’ but it does make me want to love Him more. Once the love of God convicts us, we must confess our sins to God so that the love of God can cover and cleanse us. “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the

blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” —1 John 1:7-9 Again, because God so loved me that He gave His Son on my behalf, I really want to love Him with an attitude of “I get to.” But being cleansed doesn’t move me from “have to” to “get to.” This is where meditating on the Word of God daily helps me become consumed by the love of God. “Our God is a consuming fire.” —Hebrews 12:29 As I abide in the Word of God, I can become so consumed with the love of God that I begin to move from “I have to love Him because of what He did,” to “Wow, I get to love the One that loved me first and has taught me how to love!” Once this transition begins to take place in my mind and my heart, then I can become compelled with the love of God. In 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 Paul tells us that once the love of God compels us it will convince us to “No longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us.” Why? Because we are so in awe with the love that God showed us by giving us His Son that we can’t help but give our lives for something that is so much greater than ourselves. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” —2 Corinthians 5:14-15 My prayer is that you will not become so familiar with the love of God that you lose the awe for the One who gave His all for you. I pray that in 2016, you don’t simply go through the motions of the spiritual disciplines because you have to, but you comb the Scriptures, looking for treasure because you get to love the One who loves you infinitely. May God continue to pour out His great love into our hearts so that we are compelled to live for Him and not for ourselves. Don Davis serves as Director of Football Ministry at Pro Athletes Outreach.



Creative Commons CC0 / pixabay


Learning the Hard Way Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ He took a little child whom He placed among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the one who sent Me.’” —Mark 9:35-37 In order to see the Kingdom of God, we have to be like children. The greatest quality children have is that they know that they don’t know. As long as we stay teachable and inquisitive like children, we will be able to receive truth and instruction from God. There are two ways to learn lessons: From experience and through instruction. Being the baby in a family of five children, I was easily able to learn from others’ mistakes. I also learned that there are certain experiences that you can’t come back from. When I was growing up, there was a certain basketball player who was said to be the next Michael Jordan; in fact, many believed that he would be even better than Jordan! As a young person, I watched this athlete’s career and saw that as he entered the draft, he soon became the number one pick for the Boston Celtics. He had it all. A bright future, fame, talent, money, etc. were all coming his way. But on the night of the draft, he decided to experiment with cocaine. He didn’t know that he was allergic to the drug, and his experiment killed him. It’s almost certain that he was instructed to stay away from drugs, but because he didn’t follow that instruction, he didn’t get a second chance. I looked up to Lenny Bias, but learned from his experience. I would never experiment with drugs because he didn’t live through his experiment. Experience was the worst teacher for Lenny and it is for us as well. We’ve all heard the cliché: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but the reality is that what doesn’t kill you will scar you, leaving you to live with those scars. God never accomplished evil, but He knows all about it. He didn’t want us to experience it, but He wanted to teach us about it in the Garden of Eden. God never experienced evil, but Jesus, taking on

The things that are inside of us are clues to what has already infiltrated us. The Bible says that if we resist the devil, he will flee. In the same way, we need to resist temptation by ridding ourselves of the things that threaten to tempt us. Jesus was able to rebuke the devil because the devil couldn’t get a hold on Him in the first place. “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” —2 Timothy 2:20-21 This analogy refers to vessels of honor and vessels holding feces. The person who purges himself or herself of the feces can become a person of honor. Len Bias #1 draft pick of the Boston Celtics shakes hands with We have the opportunity, abilNBA Commissioner David Stern on June 1, 1986. ity, and responsibility to let the Word of God purge us of the things that once “When tempted, no one tempted us. It’s only then that we will know victoshould say, ‘God is tempt- ry. But when we fail to let the Word of God purge us of the evil things that remain in us, we will be ing me.’ For God candisqualified from being used by God. It’s only in not be tempted by evil, the areas of our life where we are not tempted that God can use us. nor does He tempt any“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is one; but each person is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by tempted when they are evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by dragged away by their their own evil desire…Don’t be deceived, my dear own evil desire…” brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the —James 1:13-14 heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” —James 1:13-17 the fallen condition of man in the flesh, did experience temptation. Temptation is the opportunity to Pastor Ted Winsley choose what is right in the midst of what is wrong. serves as the chaplain Because Jesus was sinless—unstained by evil—He for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. was able to resist the temptation that He faced.


Noren Trotmen / Getty Images



TENETS OF FAITH Matthew Slater on Salvation I think it’s really important for people to understand who God is, what He says about us, and what He says about our sin. Because of our sin, there’s a price to be paid, and there’s a cost involved with that. For us, we deserve death. But God loved and cared so much about us that He had a backup plan for that sin. He sent his son Jesus to die on the cross and to be raised from the dead in order to pay for our sins, so that we could be restored back to God. And that’s something that’s so very powerful: to think about the love Christ had for us. To be able to give up everything that He had in heaven, as the almighty God, to come down here to earth, and die for us. It’s just so powerful when you think about it. And I feel like once the Spirit moves in you and you understand that, and you accept that truth about who Jesus is and what He did, and why He needed to do it, I think from there repentance is a big part of it too. You have to turn from your old ways, from your old self. It’s not going to be perfect, but you have to turn and focus your eyes back on Him, and move forward in light of that grace that’s been shed on you.

Demario Davis on God’s Word I think the importance of God’s Word to me is that all scripture is inspired by God, and Godbreathed, and profitable for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). That is the Christian faith! So much of it is having a relationship with God, and it’s about communication. All relationships—friendships, marriages, parenthood—they’re all about communication. How do you communicate with the other individual? How do you express what’s inside of you to another person in an effective way, and how do you receive the information that they’re trying to give you? Praying is me talking to God, and in essence I can kind of listen and hear from God. But when I read His Word, a living, breathing God is talking to me. I know every word inside there is God-breathed. The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12); this isn’t just some historic document where I can read and learn about history. It’s living and active and relevant to my life. God is activating Himself in my life. So that’s why you hear stories of people who say that they just opened their Bibles and felt like God was talking directly to them; He is! I don’t have to wonder what my God is wanting me to do in a situation; if I want to know what God has to say about what I’m going through, I can go to His Word directly.

Daniel Murphy on Living with the End in Mind There are two different ways I think about it. One is that when we die, we’re going to go to Jesus, and He’s going to judge our lives, but as Christians not in a judgment of never accepting Him; a judgment of the gifts and talents that He gave us. He’s going to look at me and ask what I did with my talents, like the story of the servants given talents. And not just my baseball talents; I’ll be judged on the gifts He’s given me in this life: my wife and children. What did I do with them? There’s an account to be had for what He’s given me and what I did with it to serve. And then the other view I have of heaven, is that I see some people who are believers who think we have to grind it out here, get through these 70 or so years, and then we’re going to get heaven. I don’t see that anywhere in scripture; but we do see Jesus say, “I want the best life possible for you here on earth. Not the easiest life, but the best life if you pursue Me, and reach for Me, and follow Me. It doesn’t necessarily mean wealth or fame or riches, but it means I’ll give you peace, joy, and things we can’t get with material wealth on this earth” (Matthew 6:20, Galatians 5:22-23). We can live life to the fullest here on Earth, and have an eternity in heaven.



Photos courtesy of PAO.


Todd Peterson on the


Reading God’s Word

When I think about reading God’s Word, the first thing that pops into my mind is Romans 12:2. Here Scripture says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV) When I’m reading the Word, I’m being transformed. God’s putting into me something that’s going to change me. God’s ways are not our ways, the way of the world isn’t the way of God—it’s not His best for me. But when I read God’s Word, my mind is renewed and my heart is transformed. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV) This is God’s Word in me; He’s written His Word on my heart! I love the Word, and if I’m not continually in the Word, I can not be the guy God created me to be. I know the person I am apart from Christ and I’m not good. Scripture tells us that no one is good apart from God (Mark 10:18). I need to be changed, renewed and transformed. I love sitting down in the morning, grabbing a cup of coffee (or two), a journal, and God’s Word. As I sit there, I read chapter after chapter after chapter to really understand what God is saying to me and to learn the Word. I love reading Christian history along with Scripture to study what other people have found in the pages of the Word. This gives me more context for what I’m reading and frames the way I think about the Word. I can understand what my brothers and sisters throughout history have gone through for the sake of the Gospel and it changes me; it gives me perspective. It literally transforms me from the inside out. Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (NIV) When I’m in the Word, my heart and spirit are being transformed.

Overcoming a Spiritual Dry Spell There are times when we read God’s Word and it can feel sort of dry. In those times, I can always sense a lack of intimacy between me and my Father. Perhaps reading God’s Word has become an obligation—a task to check off. The devil wants us to perform for God and tempts us to think that in order to be in God’s good graces, we have to read a certain amount so we do. Yes, God wants me in His Word but not as a should or have to, but rather because I want to...Reading out of obligation never feels the same nor is as meaningful as when there is intimacy between me and my Savior. Early in my faith, I confused this situation as God being distant; perhaps He was playing a game with me, or He wasn’t there at all. Sometimes I was tempted to believe that maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough. As I’ve matured in my faith, I’ve realized that most of the time, this feeling of apathy is on me. It’s not God giving me some sort of wilderness experience, but it’s usually my lack of discipline, disobedience, lack of intentionality, or lack of prioritization that makes my time with God become an obligatory thing. This is not God’s heart for us nor is it how He wants His Word ministering to and transforming us. We’re His beloved sons and daughters and He’s given us Scripture—His love letter—to soak in. He can’t wait for us to be in His Word! I have a son and a daughter of my own and I love to be with them. I want them to understand this truth because if they understand that my desire is for them, then they can’t wait to be with me either! That’s the heart our Heavenly Father has for us as well. When we understand this with a confident and childlike faith, we will yearn for and not be able to wait for the next time we get to open God’s Word!!




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We talked with two-time Olympian and U.S. half-marathon record holder Ryan Hall about his faith journey, the mentors who have impacted his life, and how he’s living in the Increase of Christ. What effect does faith have on your lifestyle? Faith affects every part of my life. Living out my faith is going to lead to the abundant life that Jesus promises. I’m just trying to ask the Holy Spirit and God, moment-by-moment, how to enter into that abundant life, and how to follow Him completely. Obviously it’s a growing process, but that’s how my faith kind of plays out in my daily living. Describe how your journey with Christ began. I was super blessed and grew up in a Christian home, but I really started growing a lot when I started running. When I started running [in high school], the first thing that happened was I lost all my friends, because I wasn’t doing the same things my friends were doing anymore, and I was super into running. Which made me feel very lonely at first but was actually a really necessary thing to have happen. My dad was a teacher at my high school, and I can remember literally walking to my dad’s classroom to eat lunch there because I didn’t have any other friends to eat lunch with. I’m super grateful my dad was there for me and he could be my friend, but there was still that loneliness, and it made me go even deeper into God. I remember having a conversation with God; I said, “I really need you to show up as my friend right now because I feel super lonely,” and He did. That’s really where the relationship grew from, was that starting point of loneliness. Who have been the mentors in your life? How did God bring these people into your life? I’ve had a lot of amazing mentors in my life. My dad was my coach in high school, but more than that he was always feeding me positive encouragement and teaching me about God and about what it looks like to walk the Christian life. Then when I got to Stanford, Steve Stenstrom was my mentor there and he really poured into me. I remember that a#er every single meeting, I felt so encouraged; felt like I had a be$er understanding of God, and of how He wanted me to live. A#er college, I’d say my wife, Sara, has been my biggest sounding board, and the person that I pull on the most when I’m feeling discouraged. We’re talking about God all the time and growing together on our spiritual journey. What does the Increase of Christ mean to you? To me, the Increase of Christ means bringing Heaven into everything that we do, and bringing God’s Kingdom into everything we do. What that looks like to me is doing things the way Jesus would do things, with the heart that you would have when He’s doing those things. For example, what does it look like to compete the way Jesus would compete? One of the things that I think I get really strongly when I read the Scriptures is that Jesus wasn’t into comparison. I feel like God really doesn’t want us to be comparing ourselves to other people, which is a very difficult thing to avoid in athletics. That’s how they define success in a sport: Did you beat the other team, did you run faster than your opponents, what place were you? I don’t think God would be a#er those things. I think He would be a#er excellence; doing things as excellently as we possibly can with a heart toward loving God and others. People are going to notice that, and it’s going to be powerful. When your competitors are like, ‘Wow, I feel really loved by them; that’s different than how my other competitors treat me,” I think that’s my mission, and what I see with increasing God’s kingdom here on earth. What is your life verse? Why? My life verse is John 10:10: “He came that they may have life, and live it abundantly.” I feel like that’s what I’ve experienced to be true, and the closer I am to Him, the closer I follow Him, the be$er my life gets. It’s not like you give everything up and then you just have to live a mediocre life a#er that; it’s actually the total opposite. You follow Jesus and you realize your deepest heart’s dreams and desires.

July 2017 print (Vol. 31 Iss. 2)  

Sports Spectrum July 2017 print magazine

July 2017 print (Vol. 31 Iss. 2)  

Sports Spectrum July 2017 print magazine