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 $27.52, twelve issues (4 print, 8 digital); $36.00 outside USA For information on subscriptions, back issues, discount bulk issues, or changing your subscription address; Web site: www.sportsspectrum.com/subscribe/ Phone: 1-866-821-2971 Mail: PO Box 2037, Indian Trail, NC 28079 Email: subscriptions@sportsspectrum.com Sports Spectrum Radio station information Go to www.SportsSpectrum.com to find out where you can hear Sports Spectrum Radio. General correspondence, Letter to the Editor, or Writerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Query No unsolicited manuscripts, please E-mail: editor@sportsspectrum.com Mail: Managing Editor, SportsSpectrum, 5712 C Stockbridge Drive, 2nd Floor, Monroe, NC 28110 Permissions, Reprints Contact: Sports Spectrum permissions Fax: 1-704-821-2669 E-mail: info@sportsspectrum.com $07&3t1)050$3&%*54

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4QPSUT4QFDUSVN magazine seeks to highlight Christian athletes of all sports and levels to help motivate, encourage, and inspire people in their faith through the exciting and challenging world of sports. Printed in USA. Copyright Š 2012 by Sports Spectrum Publishing. Bible quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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Featuring Super Bowl Champions from the New York Giants: Chase Blackburn, Chris Canty and Justin Tuck

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!"#$%!!"&'%$()*'#) Sports Devotionals and Sports Stories Based on the Book of Proverbs Verses from all 31 chapters of Proverbs are paired with spiritually encouraging stories of well-known athletes and thought-provoking devotionals. You will be inspired as you read each page of this book.

& Available now in the Sports Spectrum store


AIRING IT OUT BY BRETT HONEYCUTT

OPINION

e d i t o r @ s p o r t s s p e c t r u m . c o m | F o l l o w @ b re t t _ h o n e y c u t t

E

arly on the Saturday morning of Dec. 1, 2012, Kansas City Chiefs starting linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend after shooting her nine times. He then drove approximately five miles to Arrowhead Stadium where he thanked his coach, Romeo Crennel, and his general manager, Scott Pioli, for everything they had done for him. Then he shot himself to end his own life. After contemplating this for days after the incident, it hit me that part of the tragedy was the brief life Belcher, his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and their daughter had lived here on earth and the brief life they had lived together. Belcher was only 25 years old, and his girlfriend only 22. Their daughter, Zoe, was only three months old when her parents left this earth. Belcher’s unthinkable actions had created a void in multiple people’s lives and orphaned a child who will never know her father and mother. Another part of the tragedy hit me as well—that insensitive, irresponsible, and negative people in the media would, only hours after the killings, begin debating gun control. At best, it’s grandstanding, shameful and a heartless exploitation of a tragedy. NBC sportscaster Bob Costas was one of the culprits who brought the debate to us the next day, shoving the issue into people’s living rooms during halftime of Sunday night’s telecast between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. During halftime, he quoted noted FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock, the other culprit, who, in his piece, made an unfortunate and unsubstantiated claim by saying: “If he did not have a gun they would both still be alive.” Even though I’m amazed each time people in the media politicize something, especially something as tragic as a death, I shouldn’t be because facts don’t seem to matter to them—only their opinions, usually based on emotions. To be honest, it makes me want to put them in a time machine and warp them back to the Revolutionary War when our ancestors were fighting for their lives—with guns. Or, stick them in a car headed to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, ranked as one of the world’s worst places to live because of the drug-infested environment where drug cartels shoot, stab and cut off people’s heads. Why? Because, as ABC TV affiliate KVUE in Austin, Texas, noted in a November story, regular citizens have difficulty purchasing guns to defend themselves because Mexico has one of the toughest gun control laws in the world. The criminals have guns because they obtain their guns illegally, because, well, criminals do illegal things like that. If Costas and Whitlock visited America’s past and Mexico’s present, I’m sure they would have different opinions. W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

Heart control Gun control is not the answer. Cain didn’t kill Abel with a gun, and O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, along with Ronald Goldman, weren’t shot to death; they were stabbed to death. The countless hours spent debating gun control after the incident, though, was nearly as unthinkable as the crime itself. People kill people, and people use guns, knives, baseball bats, and anything they can get their hands on because they’ve lost control of their emotions. Crazed, deranged, thoughtless and heartless are adjectives that come to mind to describe people like that—and it all stems from some sort of emotion, whether it’s anger, bitterness or misguided passion. What killing really boils down to, though, is a heart issue, not a gun issue. If it was a gun issue, then we should outlaw any instrument used to kill someone (knives, baseball bats, lampstands, and even alcohol, which indirectJamie Squire / Getty Images ly causes people to kill others). But we aren’t doing that because people, again, ignore the facts and have politicized a serious issue (the majority of one political party believes we should have the right to bear arms, and the majority of another party believes we should limit that right or do away with that right all together). The argument for limiting or doing away with guns is based on the premise that someone who is thinking about killing someone, and didn’t have a gun or have access to a gun, will think longer if they have to use any weapon other than a gun. Their reasoning is that it’s too easy to quickly pull a trigger, and it’s too hard and timeconsuming to kill someone by any other means. But when a person shoots someone nine times, emotions are already too high. They’re out of control and would use anything to kill the other person. Thinking otherwise is naïve at best. I point you, again, back to Exhibit A (Cain and Abel), and Exhibit B (O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman, who weren’t shot to death with a knife). You’re probably wondering why I’m even talking about this, but I’m doing so because I’m fed up with people in our country allowing the media to think for them. People have accepted and parroted the ideas that shoot across the airwaves without giving it an ounce of thought or introspection. We’ve done in it in politics (both sides), we’ve done it in society, and we’ve done it in our faith. Here’s hoping that we see the heart of the matter and that we work on changing lives, not by trying to take guns out of people’s hands, but by introducing them to Christ, discipling them and helping them grow in their faith. That is what Jesus, not Brett Honeycutt is the the media, teaches us to do managing editor of Sports in order to truly save lives. Spectrum magazine.

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Justin Tuck

New York Giants defensive end and two-time All-Pro who helped his team to wins in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI “Being in New York City, having the platform we have as athletes, we have a huge platform to change, a huge platform to glorify God. With so many kids, so many people in general that watch every move we make, before the game when I’m down on a knee, we’re praying, or when I give an interview just thanking God for giving me an opportunity to play this game or make the plays I’ve made, or learn from the mistakes that I’ve made, people watch that.” Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

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For more in-depth Christian athlete profiles, visit www.sportsspectrum.com/resources testimonials.php


NFL PROFILE CLOSEUP Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

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Chris Canty

New York Giants defensive tackle, who helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI “There’s so much pressure to perform (in the NFL); there’s so many highs and lows, it’s hard to stay even-keeled and stay level-headed. One thing for me is always to be centered in my faith, to stay rooted in my foundation which is Christ Jesus as my Lord and Savior.” For more in-depth Christian athlete profiles, visit www.sportsspectrum.com/ resources/testimonials.php Handout/GettyImages

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NFL PROFILE CLOSEUP Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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Chase Blackburn

New York Giants linebacker, who helped his team to wins in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI “He worked on me last year when I was out of football, when I was sitting at home with my family and my wife and my sons; it tested me a little bit as far as being able to really understand where I was at in my faith because I had to trust that the plan was right. If it wasn’t for Him, I would have been playing football; I may have missed the birth of my son, I may have not been home as much as I was to help my wife.”

Michael DeHoog/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images

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For more in-depth Christian athlete profiles, visit www.sportsspectrum.com/resources/ testimonials.php


NFL PROFILE CLOSEUP Rob Tringali / Getty Images

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NFL PROFILE CLOSEUP George Gojkovichi / Getty Images

Troy Polamalu

Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety and seven-time Pro Bowl selection who helped his team to wins in Super Bowls XL and XLIII “Prayer is a foundation. It’s your communication with God. It’s constant prayer—constant, constant, constant prayer...I think that’s a struggle of every Christian, to be able to get to that point where they’re in constant prayer with God - so that everything they do, in thought, in speech, in work, is praising God and worshipping God.” Christian Petersen/GettyImages

For more in-depth Christian athlete profiles, visit www.sportsspectrum.com/ resources/testimonials.php

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NFL PROFILE CLOSEUP Tom Szczerbowski/ Getty Images

Steven Jackson

St. Louis Rams running back and three-time Pro Bowl selection

Tom Szczerbowski/GettyImages

“Jesus Christ actually means a lot of things to me. One, He’s my heavenly Father. He loves me wholeheartedly. He’s the true definition of unconditional love. Where a lot of times I can get frustrated with myself or with other people, I remind myself that God—He died and laid on the cross for us in my sins that one day I could come to meet Him. Love is just more powerful than anything on this earth. And, the more I try to remind myself of that, the more I try to walk in that, I find peace in myself in my heart.” For more profiles, visit: www.cbn.com/700club/sports/

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Eric Reid

LSU Tigers free safety and All-American, who is a projected first-round NFL Draft pick “The thing that has helped me grow the most in my personal faith is definitely prayer. I’m a big prayer guy. Fortunately, I have a great roommate that we travel and pray together at night before we go to bed before the games. I’ve learned that you can’t be afraid to ask God for the opportunity to do things.” For more testimonies, visit www.beyondtheultimate.org Chris Graythen/GettyImages

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NCAA PROFILE CLOSEUP Ronald Martinez/ Getty Images

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Mark Richt

Georgia Bulldogs head coach

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

“We’ve been (to Honduras) a couple of times. I think it was my third trip, and I know my wife Katharyn, she loves mission trips. We went there this last time with World Vision. We wanted to see how they operate because we knew we wanted to get involved. I had read a book called The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Sterns, who is the president and CEO of World Vision America. And it just touched me and we wanted to do something. We wanted to get involved. So we spent some time with them and they showed us how they take these communities from scratch and build them up to the point that they can take over on their own; the poorest of the poor. In that country World Vision is helping in the name of Christ. It was pretty awesome.” For more of staff writer Aaron May’s “Conversations” podcasts visit: www.sportsspectrum.com/daily/

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NCAA PROFILE CLOSEUP Scott Cunningham/ Getty Images

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FACE OFF

OPINION

B Y M AT T D U N N A N D J O H N W H I T E M a t t . D u n n @ H a v e Yo u r Wa y P u b l i s h i n g . c o m | J o h n _ B _ W h i t e @ B a y l o r. e d u

The tragic comedy of Lance Armstrong

A

fter many years of denying any connection with blood doping or the like (and never failing a test to suggest otherwise), Lance Armstrong recently surrendered his fight to challenge all ongoing allegations. In turn, he forfeited all of his medals, finishes, winnings, prizes, and his most recognizable claim: an unprecedented seven consecutive Tour de France titles. His refusal to challenge the allegations is essentially an admission of guilt. If Armstrong never failed a single test, why would a diehard competitor like him forfeit his right to compete for his most valuable prize—his honor and integrity? Has he simply matured to the point where his past accomplishments fail in comparison to his foundation’s work moving forward? Maybe…in part. Or is he trying to maintain any remaining pieces of his public image in tact? Possibly... Now I’m not looking here to cast any stones as I’ve made my own set of errors; however, I would like to bring to light an issue that extends past any stage of the Tour de France: “If you’re never caught doing anything wrong…or if everybody else is doing something, does it still make it right?” Sports Illustrated previously reported that, “…20 of the 21 podium finishers during Armstrong’s string of seven Tour wins have directly been linked to doping through admissions, investigations, and drug testing results.” That said, Armstrong was the victor every single time; therefore, even if he did use Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), the playing field would essentially be level as virtually everyone participated illegally anyhow. But given that premise, does it still make it right? Some would argue that he was in Europe and drugs are simply more “acceptable” there; okay, if something is “acceptable,” does it make it ethical? To quote Armstrong (out of context), “There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’” And the same is true for the Christian; there comes a point that— regardless if an activity is legal or illegal, acceptable or unacceptable, popular or unpopular—there still remains an ethical issue of morality concerning right and wrong. Just because you may or may not be caught doesn’t diminish the reality that there remains accountability to Almighty God as He sees everything…whether done in public or in secret.

!"##$%&''

Matt Dunn is a freelance writer specializing in sports management—contributing to countless blogs, articles, and periodicals. Additionally, he serves as an associate staff member with Athletes in Action. Contact: Matt.Dunn@HaveYourWayPublishing.com COURTESY: MATT DUNN

C

ycling is a tarnished sport. Unfortunately, for “sportophiles,” the halcyon days of cycling have never existed, for any sports. I believe our loyalties and passions can blind our view of reality, and thus, we can misread a cluster of signs, disclosing that something is mistaken. The cumulative signs for the icon Lance Armstrong signify tragedy. Tragedy is what happens when the hero of a story shockingly falls, because of some tragic flaw, bringing ruin. Armstrong’s tragedy amounts to an echelon of costs, i.e., divorce, lies, use of drugs, ruptured friendships, Tour De France titles, Nike contract and Livestrong Foundation. On the one hand, his tragedy is unique. On the other hand, tragedy is indiscriminately inevitable. Tragedy lives in us too, as the bad news, the universal experience of Romans 1-3. We labor to make a name for ourselves, and in this pursuit, we often hurt others and ourselves. Lance is not soloing off the front on this one, since all humans share in this gospel truth. Watching Lance fall, we are forced to confront our own human condition. Lance has been “caught in the act” and he is vulnerable like the adulterous woman in John’s Gospel. Jesus teaches that the responsible action is to see things as they are, showing and feeling compassion. Tragedy evokes images of the gospel in that it directs us to a world mortally wounded and in need of healing. Instead of condemning, for we are never in a position to hurl stones, Christians should imitate Jesus by pointing Lance to forgiveness and reconciliation. The gospel as bad news is a prelude to the gospel as comedy, namely, the good news that God extravagantly loves and forgives Lance. At Advent, we remember comedy as God’s outrageous announcement concerning the gospel; humans are no longer subject to bondage because Jesus sets us free. God in Christ triumphs over our misery and misfortune. Impossible! Hilarious! Sad tears are turned to glad tears. The spectacle of sports, however, frames Lance’s tragic choices as trapped, because in this drama, performances and success are merit-based, limited to the predictable, achievable and calculable. And since Lance failed and is barred from sports—his place of redemption—he cannot save himself. As a warrior athlete, set on seeking honor and glory, Lance appears doomed, but herein lies the unforeseeable relief. His tragedy betrays his limits (and ours); athletic prowess will never traverse the line between us and perfection. Absurd! And now, like Charlie Chaplin, he has unexpectedly slipped on the proverbial banana peel, meeting his backside (without his bike), with the comedic freedom to laugh at himself for taking life too seriously, and see God gratuitously reaching down to right his fall. With time and humility, Lance can rest in God’s draft, protecting him from his win-at-all-costs attitude and liberating him to experience the joy of sport and life.

SAY WHAT? Would you like to respond? Send

a note to editor@sportsspectrum.com. We’d love to hear what you think about this topic.

()*'$+*,#-

John White is the Harold and Dottie Riley Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and Director of the Sports Chaplaincy/Ministry Program at Baylor University. White served for 17 years with Athletes in Action before completing his Ph.D. from The University of Edinburgh (U.K.) in Theological Ethics. Contact: John_B_White@Baylor.edu

COURTESY: JOHN WHITE


OPINION w w w. u n p a c k i n i t . c o m | F o l l o w @ b r y c e r a d i o

Pat Williams, co-founder and senior vice president of the Orlando Magic joined Bryce Johnson on the UNPACKIN’ it radio show to discuss sports, faith and family. Pat is also a motivational speaker and has spent more than 50 years in professional baseball and basketball as a player and executive. Williams is the author of more than 75 books. He and his wife, Ruth, are the parents of 19 children, including 14 adopted children from four nations. You can listen to the full interview at www.unpackinit.com

BRYCE JOHNSON: You’ve been involved in the NBA for a long time. Do you still love it, and what’s your overall view of the league right now? PAT WILLIAMS: Bryce, I’m still fascinated by it. This is my 44th year in the National Basketball Association. My first season was 1968, so I’ve seen an awful lot of change, and I’ve seen an enormous amount of growth. The internationalization of the game has been spectacular…and, yes…the games are still intriguing to me, the athletes are still intriguing…I follow what’s going on with each team very closely. I still root extra hard for our Magic here in Orlando. I’m just riveted by the sport...The game has never been played under a more glaring spotlight. BRYCE JOHNSON: What has God been teaching you recently? PAT WILLIAMS: Well, the most recent teaching comes through my cancer diagnosis. I was diagnosed 22 months ago with multiple myeloma, which is cancer of the bone marrow, the blood in the bone marrow, so that has been a major issue here. I think the Lord has been teaching me that we are going to have storms in our life. I think all of us have either come out of a storm, or we’re in the middle of a storm, or we’re heading into one. And, in the middle of the storm, how are you gonna react? What are you gonna do? How are you gonna deal with it? I’ve been a Christian for many decades, but never really faced major adversity, but the cancer diagnosis got my attention. And I think, at that point, Bryce, you have one of two choices: You can turn your back on God and shake your fist at Him and play the “Why me?” game, or you can just do a flying leap into His lap and hold on around his neck as tightly as you can and ride through the storm holding onto the Lord. And that’s what I’ve been doing. BRYCE JOHNSON: You and your wife have adopted 14 international kids. What have you learned through adoption? PAT WILLIAMS: I’ve learned that parenting is not easy, but children need your time. They need your attention; you’ve got to figure out the right balance between love W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

and discipline. I think that’s the key. They need unconditional love, but that has to be balanced with the right amount of discipline. And the other thing I’ve learned is, at 18, they are leaving home. That needs to be planted in their minds from the time they’re very young, that at 18 they’re going to college or they’re going into the military or they’re going into the workforce, but they’re not hanging at home playing video games. BRYCE JOHNSON: Since you are involved with the Magic organization, what was your thought process during the whole Dwight Howard saga in Orlando? PAT WILLIAMS: Dwight, what are you thinking? What’s going on in your mind? Why can we not get through to you? This is your city; this is where you started as an 18-year-old. There’s something special, Dwight, about being in one city your whole career, a la John Havlicek or Tim Duncan or David Robinson or Cal Ripken…Dwight, to have a monument outside the building of you, this is your town. BRYCE JOHNSON: How do you feel about players staying on one team their whole career or playing for multiple teams? PAT WILLIAMS: At a certain point in their career a player has the right to make decisions and move in other directions…They have earned the right for that freedom. I, however, argue that if you can have one career in one city and start there and finish there, boy, I think that’s pretty special… and quite rare. Kobe Bryant will do it, it appears. He’ll be a one-city guy. You’re always linked to that franchise. Shaquille O’Neal, for example, started here, four years here, then off to LA, then to Miami, then to Phoenix, then to Cleveland, then to Boston. He does not have one city that is his...where he will always be linked to that one city...And, I think, at the end of your career, I think that’s kind of sad.

Bryce’s Best: Best Album: The O.C. Supertones-For the Glory After a few years away from music, The O.C Supertones have a brand new album with the same great sound. They are one of the most popular ska rock bands in Christian music and have put out many upbeat and encouraging albums. This album delivers more great songs with a balance of their unique ska sound, while also including some slower songs with a beach music feel. They have worshipful and uplifting lyrics throughout to complement the fun sound.

Best Book: God Doesn’t Play Zone Defense by Jeff Balistrere This new book by Jeff Balistrere is perfect for basketball fans and players. Balistrere incorporates the Bible and motivational quotes from coaches to inspire people to enjoy a one-on-one relationship with God and also encourages readers to understand that God wants a personal relationship with us. Balistrere does a great job of incorporating humor, basketball and faith.

What I’m convinced of… t$PMMFHFCBTLFUCBMMJTCFUUFSXIFOTUPSJFE schools like Duke, Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, and UNC are all good and most of them have a chance to make the Final Four. t"QSPCMFNUIBUNVTUCFmYFEJTUIFBNPVOUPG time between college football’s regular season ending and the BCS bowl games beginning. t5IF-PT"OHFMFT-BLFST JGIFBMUIZBOEBMM playing well together, are the only team with a chance to knock off the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. t.JDIBFM7JDLTUJMMIBTTPNFUBMFOUMFGUBOEBOFX situation could really help him. t4FBTPOTGPSTQPSUTBOETFBTPOTJOMJGFBSFB wonderful thing. I love enjoying football in the fall, basketball in the winter, golf in the spring, and baseball in the summer. I’m also thankful for seasons of trials and seasons of victories. They are different and important because God uses both to transform us.

Pat Williams, co-founder and senior vice president of the Orlando Magic

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H E A LT H

GETTING FIT BY CHIP SIGMON

c h i p s i g m o n @ e u ro p a s p o r t s . c o m | F i t n e s s / We l l n e s s C o o rd i n a t o r

Inside the repetitions

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’m sitting here in my hotel room in Providence, Rhode Island, where I just finished attending the 2012 National Strength and Conditioning Associations (NSCA) annual convention. So while I had some time I wanted to share my thoughts on another e-mail that I received not that long ago. The sender asked me how he should do his reps (fast or slow), and how many reps he should do to achieve specific goals. I believe that you need to train in all rep ranges, but this depends on the goals you are trying to achieve. This is where periodization comes into play. There are mainly two different types of periodization: linear and conjugated. Linear is where there are blocks or phases of training. These blocks are: hypertrophy, and strength and power. Generally 10-12 reps build hypertrophy, and 5-6 reps builds strength and 2-3 reps builds explosive power. These blocks are usually broken into weeks at a time. Conjugated calls for the linking of the blocks of training that are to be developed. These blocks or phases can be mixed from one workout to the next or even one week to the next, depending on what one’s goals are for that training period. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s essentially what it is. But how can you build as much hypertrophy as possible doing 10 or more reps, or how can you build more strength when doing the five reps? And when performing 2-3 reps to create power, does the speed of the lift have anything to do with activating muscle fiber? I believe that when training for hypertrophy or strength, one must train as heavy as possible for the reps prescribed or the percentages of the one rep max prescribed for that day or workout. What I want to get across is that if you’re going to spend so much time in the gym day after day, you want to get all you can out of each exercise and repetition. That’s called training economy, which means choosing the right exercises. In this case, the repetitions that will give you the quickest results in the shortest time. It takes some thinking ahead as to what type of intensity and what 22

SPORTS SPECTRUM

type of rep you’ll do for that particular workout, but the results will be worth it. Before we look at these four areas, we have to look at what’s called tempo (or the rate or speed in which the bar is traveling). I must admit, though, I’m not much of a tempo guy. The last thing I want do in my training sessions is count how fast I’m moving the bar up and down. However, tempo is very important for several reasons. A tempo is commonly expressed as counts that you do in your head (to the counts 5IFMBUQVMMEPXOJTBGPSNPGTUSFOHUIUSBJOJOHFYFSDJTFVTFEUPTUSFOHUIFOUIF of seconds). A lift upper back. with the tempo of 3-0-1 would be three seconds down or the what would be the ideal length of time to eccentric portion of the lift, zero (0) would bring the bar down safely and to activate as mean no pause at the bottom of the lift, many muscle fibers as possible. A 5-6 secand one (1) would be lifting the weight up ond eccentric contraction seems to be the on a one count. The father of this number- magic number of seconds with about 70-75 ing system was Australian strength coach percent of one’s 1-rep max. I would also Ian King, who also added a fourth number recommend 4-5 sets of whatever exercise that would be the amount of time a person you’re performing with the last 2 sets becould rest or pause before repeating the rep ing that of the 5-6 second eccentric work. Eccentric work can be done anywhere beagain. That would look like: 3-0-1-0. We have to remember that resistance in tween the 5-10 rep range, but I would not weight training causes microscopic tears in recommend anything beyond the 10-rep the muscle fiber. With adequate rest and range. For example, if you’re performing 5 nutrition, the fibers are able to regenerate sets x 10 reps, the last two sets and last and repair and are able to handle future two reps would be focused on the eccentric workouts with similar work and less stress. phase of the lift. There is such a concept of This is called positive muscular tissue dam- “Eccentric Training Only,” but that doesn’t age (the muscle adapts and becomes bigger fit into the Tempo Model that I’m focusing and stronger). Using the right or different on in this article (that is for another time). kinds of tempo in a lot of different ways I will say that much soreness will come with any type of concentrated eccentric work, can get you maximal results. which is because of the different type of Below are four ways to get the most out stress placed on the fiber itself. However, of each rep and so that you can use tempo this leads to “Positive Muscle Damage,” which is a good thing. to your advantage. 1. Eccentric Resistance: Many people ask 2. Middle number: Signifies the pause that is usually at the bottom of each rep bePhoto provided by: Chip Sigmon

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tween the eccentric and concentric phase of the lift. I use to be the one who would skip over this portion of the lift. I had the mentality that said, “What? Me pause at the bottom of a lift? Are you crazy? I need to keep tension on the muscle when my goal is hypertrophy.” But I’ve learned otherwise, and now it’s one of my most favorite things to put into my workouts or for the workouts I design for people. I’ve learned that pausing 2-3 seconds on certain exercises really activates some deep fiber. Why? Because more fiber has to be brought into play. The reason? Because of having to overcome Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion, which says, “Every object remains in a state of rest unless compelled to change by external forces when acted upon it.” So, simply put, it takes a lot more strength and more muscle fiber has to be brought into play when having to move an object in a state of rest than it does when you’ve got some momentum working for you. Also, the stretch/shortening cycle of the muscle fiber can’t be taken advantage of during the repetition. This, as you will learn below, is a good thing. The Stretch/Shortening Cycle is where the muscle lengthens during the eccentric phase of the lift and shortens during the concentric phase. In between these two phases is a very short isometric hold or what is called the amortization phase (how long you pause between the eccentric and concentric contractions). During the stretch/shortening cycle is when there is the shortest amount of time between the two contractions. However, when one pauses between the two, you can’t take advantage of the elasticity the muscle fiber W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

carries in it, so you have to work harder when pausing, which equals, you guessed it, more muscle growth! It’s like performing a vertical jump. You’ll jump higher if you go down and up as fast as possible. However, try to jump when you have to hold the bottom portion of the jump for 2-4 seconds and see how far up you get. You won’t get far. I like performing this type of training on certain exercises because it can play havoc with the joints if not done properly. If you’ve got a power rack in your gym, then you’ll like performing squats, flat bench or incline bench presses, and even overhead press variations. When performing these “pause reps” of 2-4 seconds, I set the pins 3-4 inches from the chest when performing the bench or incline press. When performing the squat, I set the pins to where I’m down in the full squat position and the hips are below, or at least even, with the knee joint. With overhead presses, the bar would set right at the collar bone. However, you may want to set the pins at different levels; it just depends on what your goals are for that particular workout or phase of training. When pausing I’ll take 75 percent of the pressure off the bar, squeeze the shoulder blades (even on the squat), then explode up under control with proper form to help avoid injury. 3. Concentric Contraction: Where the muscle is lengthened as the weight is pushed or pulled. This phase of the movement should be one with great concentric explosive power. When I was bodybuilding in the 1970’s and 80’s, we thought that every lift had to be slow and steady. We know now (with much

COURTESY: CHIP SIGMON

Photo provided by: Chip Sigmon

The over-head snatch squat is a form of strength training used to strengthen the legs and upper back.

more science) that the more speed and acceleration, the more functional power one will obtain for athletic purposes and the more muscle fiber you’ll recruit, which leads to greater hypertrophy. This is also known as “Compensatory Acceleration Training.” Dr. Fred Hatfield, famed power lifter defined CAT as pushing as hard and as fast as possible regardless of how heavy the weight is. And, by the way, have you ever tried to lift a heavy weight slow? It won’t happen. Whether it’s for sports performance, bodybuilding, cross-fit or just plain general fitness, the third number of the tempo should mean speed. 4. Five Pause and Squeeze/ Five Fast: There’s another way to go “inside the repetition” to get the most out of your training session. It’s a way to take advantage of the fourth number that you never thought that you might use. I call it “5 Pause and Squeeze / 5 Fast.” Let’s say you’re performing squats or even leg presses. For the first 5 reps, you would pause 2 seconds at the top of the lift to squeeze the quads, but on this particular exercise you would stop short of locking out to get the most out of the contraction. If you were doing bicep curls, you would go to full contraction for 2 seconds then back down. On triceps extensions, you would go to full lockout and squeeze for 2 seconds. On chinups one would squeeze at the top of the same amount of time. On the second 5 reps, no pause is necessary; just repeat each rep as fast as possible. So the tempo would look like this: 3-0-1-2 on the first 5-6 reps, and 2-0-1-0 on the second five. The eccentric or negative reps are a little faster because the focus is placed on the concentric phase with speed the main focus. If you do 4-5 sets of the “5 pause and 5 fast” reps, you’ll feel the difference. There are two or three other techniques that you can use to get the most gains out of your workouts, but I will talk about those in another article. Until then, though, the next time you’re in the gym, be sure to know the number of reps you’ll be performing on each exercise and also know how you’ll get those repetitions done to achieve the most power, strength and hypertrophy. Like it or not, your tempo and the type of reps you perform has a lot to do with the gains you’ll make.

Chip Sigmon (CSCS*D) is the Wellness /Fitness Coordinator for Europa Sports Products.

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LIFE WAY MEN BY JASON ELLERBROOK Tw i t t e r. c o m / l i f e w a y m e n / w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / l i f e w a y m e n

In the presence of greatness Most of the people in my hometown were Chicago Bears fans. Though I had already pledged my allegiance to the San Francisco 49ers, it was hard not to get caught up in Bear Nation! You had to appreciate what they had just accomplished. Chicago had finished 13-3 and beaten the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX, 46-10. The team had captured the nation with the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” quarterback Jim McMahon’s trademark sunglasses, on and off-the-field antics, and the William “Refrigerator” Perry’s ability to stop the run and run the ball. Also, Chicago had what seemed like two head coaches: Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan. While Ditka led the team to the Super Bowl, it was obvious that the team’s defense showed and extraordinary allegiance to Ryan, the defensive coordinator. How much? When the final seconds ran off the clock in Super Bowl XX, both Ditka and Ryan were carried off the field. The thing I remember most about that game was Payton finally winning the Super Bowl. He had been in the league for 10 years and already amassed more than 12,000 career rushing yards (breaking the record of legendary Jim Brown). Payton was hard not to like (even for a 49ers fan). He was soft-spoken, yet hard-hitting and truly a joy to watch. And, he was there when Chicago struggled to win games, and now he was on top of the sports world. As my dad and I entered the show, the number of cars and people navigating the room amazed us. It was so crowded that you literally had to hold the jacket of the person you were with to fight through some of the lanes. As we walked around, we came to a booth with a sign on it that said, “Walter Payton, 11:00 a.m.” Dad and I decided that we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see him, so we decided to walk around a bit and come back a little before 10 a.m. To my disappointment, though, when we got back it looked like Wal-Mart on Black Friday. There were hundreds of people gathered around and no way that we would be able to get close to seeing Payton. An autograph would be impossible. Then something happened. It was like the Red Sea parted. The crowd began to dissipate… quickly! Something happened on the other side of the building that made people move out of the way as quickly as they had gotten in line. My father and I were left standing there with about 50 people and “Sweetness” himself. It was such a small crowd at that point that we were each able to meet Payton, hold his Super Bowl ring (which was in a custom wood box with a glass top) and even ask a ques24

SPORTS SPECTRUM

tion. It was an amazing moment and made my entire day. I was so caught up in the moment, though, that it wasn’t until later that I found out why the crowd had thinned out— Michael Jordan had entered the building. Even though he was fairly new to Chicago, he had already shown signs of basketball immortality by taking the Bulls to the playoffs and single-handedly challenging the Boston Celtics’ legendary front five to a double-overtime playoff game at the Boston Garden. When Jordan walked into the car show, it caused such a buzz that some followed the crowd even though they didn’t know why. They just knew that something was happening, and they didn’t want to miss it. However, Jordan left the building about as quickly as he came in because of the mob, and nobody really had the opportunity to meet him. All the while, we were having a conversation with one of the greatest athletes of our time. I had a great day, but I also walked away with some life lessons. The first was that many people traded the opportunity to have a conversation with one legend, just to catch a glimpse of another. And the other lesson was that following the crowd cost them an opportunity to experience intimacy. It wasn’t until later in life that I learned the lesson that mattered most, though. My dad was into cars, golf and yard work and always tried to get my brother and I to engage those interests. My interests were different as a teen, so I spent most of my time looking forward to hanging out with friends. I missed many opportunities to spend time with my father pursuing the things I thought were better or more fun. As I reflect on that day in Chicago, I am reminded that I was in the presence of greatness before I ever entered the auto show. I was with my father, who loved me unconditionally, and had taken the day to focus his full attention on me. Don’t miss out on the reality that we all have a father, who desires our attention and admiration and in turn offers a personal, intimate relationship. I hope that you can see you are in the presence of greatness. No need to look anywhere Jason Ellerbrook is the else. Just relax and enDirector of LifeWay Men. joy it. Visit lifeway.com/men Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery

Photo courtesy of Jason Ellerbrook

!

will never forget the time my dad took me to the Chicago Auto Show in 1986. The event was at McCormick Place and is still the nation’s largest and longest running auto show. It wasn’t the cars, however, that I was interested in. It was the celebrities and athletes, who the car companies would bring in to draw attention to their product. This particular year, I was excited about meeting one of my heroes, legendary Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL SERIES:

One team that will be noticeably absent from a college football bowl this season is Auburn. Two years after winning a national championship, the Tigers are sitting at home nursing the wounds from a 3-9 overall record (with one win coming against a team in a lower division) and an 0-8 record in the SEC (the first time since 1980 that Auburn went winless in the SEC). They’re also missing the coach who led them to the national title and to this year’s record: Gene Chizik, who was fired after their last game, a 49-0 loss against bitter in-state rival Alabama. It reminds me of how quick we forget what people have done or have accomplished, but it also reminds me of the comfort and encouragement in knowing that God’s nature is one of unconditional love (not temporary or a love based on feeling). He won’t throw us away because we sin. He promised that by showing us His nature in Deuteronomy 3:16, which says He will never leave us or forsake us. The word “never” is a great promise. Cling to that today as you contemplate your shortfalls so that the enemy won’t deceive you and paralyze you in your walk with Christ. — BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM Gen 1-5 Gen 1-5

TUESDAY “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” Proverbs 24:16

The Long, Better Road

WITH TURNER GILL

SPORTS SPECTRUM

FOOTBALL

Where Records Don’t Matter

Courtesty: Liberty University

28

NCAA

God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Psalm 119:1 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Like the Psalmist says, it’s important for us as Christians to know God’s Word so that we stave off sin in our lives. And the only way to know God’s Word is to read God’s Word. Below, you will see two ways to read through the Bible in one year. The first is from BEGINNING TO END (Genesis to Revelation) and the second is CHRONOLOGICAL (as the events happened in the Bible). We encourage you to select one so that you can begin seeing the wonders God’s Word holds for you as a believer this year.

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FROM

MONDAY “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your

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LESSONS

Turner Gill has tasted victory and defeat many times, but like most athletes (and coaches), when Gill went through a loss he didn’t stay down. He hopped back up and continued his journey. In the early 1980s, Gill was one of college football’s stars, playing for the Nebraska Cornhuskers After college, Gill signed a huge contract with Montreal in the Canadian Football League. But despite having huge success his first two seasons, he was advised by doctors to retire. He then turned to baseball, a sport he had also played at Nebraska, and signed with the Cleveland Indians organization. After three seasons, he had made it to the Class AA level, but he decided to return to college football as an assistant coach where he spent 16 years before moving to the NFL as Director of Player Development and wide receivers coach with the Green Bay Packers. After one year, he took his first head coaching job at the University of Buffalo, a program considered one of the worst in college football. By Gill’s third season, the Bulls won the MAC Championship and one season later he was hired by the University of Kansas as head coach, only to be fired two seasons later. He was then hired to coach Liberty University, and in his first season, he helped the Flames rebound and win a share of the Big South title. “As we know, God, everything He does, for each and every one of our lives, is preparing us for the next step, which we don’t know what that next step, or what God has for us,” Gill told Sports Spectrum writer Aaron May in our “Conversations” podcast. When you face adversity or fall, will you respond by accepting defeat, or will you respond by relying on God and getting back up to learn and experience what God has in store for you? — BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM Gen 6-11 Gen 6-11

WEDNESDAY “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6

A Matter of Opinion?

With more than 20 national football titles combined, Alabama and Notre Dame are two of the most revered and storied programs in college football. Appropriately, they will meet for the national title on Jan. 7. It will be the second time the two have faced each other with the national championship on the line. But the 1966 and 1977 college football seasons will also be remembered for both teams vying for the national championship, with Notre Dame winning both of those and Alabama thinking they should have won both. Those two titles were left up to voters, though, which is why there were differences in opinions. This year, though, just like in 1973, the title will be decided by which team wins. Isn’t it great that our salvation, our destiny with God and His judgment, isn’t left up to how God feels or an arbitrary list of “good works” that we have done. As Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That is clear, easy to determine and something I wouldn’t want anyone to vote on. Praise God today for your salvation. — BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM Gen 12-15 Job 1-5 TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


WEEK 1 THURSDAY “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39

Success Defined

First question: What do the college football programs at Arkansas, Auburn, Boston College, California, Colorado, Florida International, Idaho, Kentucky, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee, and Western Michigan have in common? Answer: Their coaches were fired after their respective teams posted losing records this past college football season and failed to reach a bowl game. Only one team (Tennessee) had five wins, with the rest winning anywhere from zero to four games. Second question: What do the college football programs at N.C State and Purdue have in common? Answer: Their coaches were fired despite having non-losing records (Purdue was 6-6, N.C. State was 7-5) and reaching a bowl game this season. It shows the fickleness of college athletics, and in particular, football. Some would say the definition of success is muddied, ambiguous, relative, or unclear, at least to outsiders. What if God was like that? How would it make you feel? Scared? Anxious? Non-caring? Like walking on egg shells? All of those would be applicable, which is why it’s comforting that God is consistent, ever-loving and the same yesterday, today and forever as Hebrews 13:8 says. His definition of success is simple, as we see in Matthew 22:37-39. We know what is expected. We serve a God who loves us in a consistent way and asks very little from us so that we can show the world how to love consistently and show them Christ in us. — BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM Gen 16-18 Job 6-9

FRIDAY “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” II Corinthians 1:3-5

Trials and Scars

Loss is inevitable. Whether it’s something as insignificant as losing a game, or as important as losing a job, or as tragic as losing someone we love, we will eventually experience the pain of loss in some form as we journey through life. Someone that experienced a devastating loss in 2012 was Notre Dame AllAmerican linebacker Manti T‘eo, who lost his grandmother and girlfriend within hours of each other. His grandmother, Annette Santiago, died of natural causes late one evening. Hours later, during the following morning, his girlfriend, Stanford student Lennay Kekua, died in her battle with leukemia. T‘eo and his girlfriend were known to fall asleep while talking on the phone together at night, but that came to an abrupt end. The media highlighted his strength, the support of his family and the support of his Notre Dame teammates through all of this. Though T‘eo is a Mormon, what we as Christians can learn from this is that support from others is so crucial in the healing process, as II Corinthians says, “…we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Be encouraged if you have suffered a loss, because God will bring comfort directly and through people in various ways. Gen 19-21

Job 10-13

— BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM

WEEKENDER “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” I Thessalonians 5:12-13a

Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:12-13a and meditate on what it says about the people God has placed in your life and the blessings He has given you. Gen 22-24

Job 14-16

Gen 25-26

Job 17-20

W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

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READER SUBMITTED SERIES:LESSONS

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THE BIG10 HAS 12 SCHOOLS AND THE BIG12 HAS 10 SCHOOLS. NOW THAT’S WHAT’S MESSED UP ABOUT COLLEGE ATHLETICS. SICK OF IT YET?

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SPORTS SPECTRUM

FROM

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READERS

MONDAY “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” John 14.6

Don’t Follow the Star

One of the blessings and curses of sports evangelism focuses on the athletes themselves. Athletes serve as noble ambassadors for several different religions. Perhaps no athlete stands as noble as Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the NBA’s greatest centers who stands as a man of peace and practiced his Muslim religion, which includes fasting for a whole month, even during the rigors of the playoffs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, arguably the NBA’s greatest pivot man ever, also adheres to Islam. Former Atlanta Braves’ Outfielder Dale Murphy maintained a positive image with his Mormon faith. Naturally, many athletes serve as Christ’s ambassadors such as Tony Dungy, Tim Tebow, Albert Pujols, David Robinson and AC Green, among many others. Some fans follow Islam because of Jabbar and Olajuwon, others probably follow Mormonism because of Murphy, and many follow Christ because of Dungy, Tebow, Pujols, Robinson and Green. Yet we have to always remember that Christ’s Gospel is true because of whom Jesus said He is, not because of who supports Christianity. He claimed to be God and is God. He backs up his claims as the Truth Himself, regardless of what any athlete says. That’s why John 14:6 is so important. Christ says He is the Truth, the Way and the Life. Regardless of what any star athlete says, positive or negative, Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. — GREG SPALDING, READER SUBMITTED Gen 27-29 Job 21-23

TUESDAY “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” II Corinthians 9:15

Marked by Ser vanthood

In “Voice of Silver, Heart of Gold,” a tribute to Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck after his passing in 2002, numerous stories are told of his generous spirit. Once, while visiting paralyzed veterans, he asked if one of them was going to bring back a trophy in the Wheelchair Olympics The vet replied there wasn’t enough money to pay for all the competitors to go. Immediately, Jack wrote a check for $5,000 and said “go rent a bus.” Often, when he learned of a physically disabled child, he would invite the child and his parents to come and sit in the broadcast booth with him. Their tickets, food and refreshments were put on his account. In Philemon 18, after Onesimus, the runaway slave, was converted through Paul and sent home, Paul said to Philemon his master “...if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account.” Paul experienced such giving first hand. In Philippians 4:18 he said, “For even in Thessalonica you sent aid time and again for my necessities.” From where does such generosity come? Ultimately, from the Lord Jesus Christ. Born in a manger, raised as a peasant, He gave of Himself completely in service to others during His earthly ministry, while not even having His own place to sleep (Luke 9:58). Among His last words, He said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30) which literally means “the debt is paid.” He took all my sin, and put that on His account. Grateful for His generosity, I want to serve others. How about you? — STANLEY TUCKER, READER SUBMITTED Gen 30-31 Job 24-28

WEDNESDAY “Examine yourselves regularly to see whether you are holding to the faith. Test yourselves.” II Corinthians 13:5

Evaluate Yourself Regularly

Pro scouts regularly evaluate upcoming opponents, attending games to analyze competitors’ tendencies. One of my basketball magazines has a section that analyzes players according to shooting, foul shooting, rebounding, defense and playmaking. Certain players excel in all of those areas. Similarly, contemplate yourself about your ratings in the Christian life, as a child in God’s family or in whatever analogy seems appropriate. Are Bible study and prayer a systematic part of each day? Do you give to the Kingdom generously? Do you work hard on your job or hardly work? Does your thought life honor God? What about evangelism and world mission? In your relationships, do you love others as you love yourself? Do you love your wife as Christ loved the church? Evaluate your life. Few believers do. Consequently, mediocrity abounds in the body of Christ. How would a scout rate you in evangelism, tithing, Bible study, prayer, thought life and relationships? Examine yourself. — GREG SPALDING, READER SUBMITTED Gen 32-34 Job 29-31 TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


WEEK 2 THURSDAY “Count others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3b

The Beauty of Rudy

One of the most moving scenes in the movie Rudy comes when all the Notre Dame starting football players bring their jerseys into Coach Devine’s office and tell him, “I want Rudy to dress in place of me.” They did this to make sure that the coach would live up to former Coach Ara Parseghian’s promise to allow walk-on Rudy Ruettiger to dress for one game before he graduated. That scene touches you because these players counted Rudy better than themselves, showing their unselfishness and unity as teammates. I experienced something similar on a Professional Athletes Outreach basketball missionary team. The team asked me to travel with them as a journalist. Some of the players knew that I played for a Sports Ambassadors missionary team earlier and one player asked Coach Claude Terry, a former NBA player and college coach, if I could suit up for one game. They let me wear his uniform for one game since I didn’t have one. I got to play about one minute in one game similar to Rudy. But I rejoiced that my teammates counted me better than themselves! Consider opportunities you have to count others better than yourself, whether it’s to allow others to do things in place of you or just to give other people preference. — GREG SPALDING, READER SUBMITTED Gen 35-37 Job 32-34

FRIDAY “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:3

Stars and Cells

Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith (“The Wizard”) was a 13-time Gold Glove winner, 15-time All-Star, and 1982 World Series winner. He played his position with style and nearly effortless skill, and was perhaps the greatest fielding shortstop. He consistently made the routine plays and often made spectacular plays. A fan watching him go deep in the hole and throw out a base runner might think, “That looked easy. I could do that.” Obviously, there was a lot of raw athletic ability, hand-eye coordination, graceful effort and desire involved for Ozzie to make those plays look easy. It also took a lot to make the universe. It took a lot of raw material, precise coordination of elements, graceful and unimaginable power, and a great desire to make it happen in the first place. Psalm 33:9 says, “For He spoke and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast.” From looking at the stars on a clear night to looking at a cell under a microscope, creation shows an awesome amount of coordination and style. He made it look easy. He made it for us to enjoy. — STANLEY TUCKER, READER SUBMITTED

Gen 38-40

Job 35-37

WEEKENDER “Live in peace with each

other.” I Thessalonians 5:13b

F<#G'D#GH KANSAS STATE QUARTERBACK AND HEISMAN CANDIDATE COLLIN KLEIN DIDN’T KISS HIS BRIDE UNTIL HIS WEDDING DAY. SERIOUSLY.

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Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:13b and meditate on what it says about the way we should act among one another. Let this be a challenge to avoid gossip and anger, and an encouragement to embrace peace as we deny our selfish ways and make others more important. Gen 41-42

Job 38-39

Gen 43-45

Job 40-42

W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

Peter G. Aiken / Getty Images

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UNPACKIN’ ITWITH BRYCE JOHNSON SERIES:

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32

LESSONS

FROM

SS

RADIO

MONDAY “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’” II Corinthians 6:1-3

Yankee Fans and Christians

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. I find it funny when fan bases of a certain team such as the Patriots, Steelers, Lakers, Yankees, or Celtics start complaining, questioning and doubting their team after a couple losses or after a few seasons where they didn’t win a championship. They take for granted all the winning that their team has experienced over the years. They expect everything to go their team’s way every game and every year. When it comes to life, I think we act the same way. We take for granted what God has done for us and the blessings he has poured down on us. We expect every season of our life to be all about “winning” and don’t recognize that even tough times are actually blessings. We end up complaining, questioning and doubting the same way Yankees fans do. How quickly we forget what God has already done. Our verse today encourages that we should not receive God’s grace in vain. We should be thankful for God’s favor and His grace and the salvation He offers. We have already won because of Jesus, and no matter what we face, our hope and assurance rests in eternity. — BRYCE JOHNSON, SPORTS SPECTRUM Gen 46-47 Gen 12-15

TUESDAY “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be

exalted.” I Thessalonians 5:17 NASB

Not Your Job

During every sports season there is always one team or sometimes more than one, that ends up being undefeated for a significant amount of time. In the NFL, though, we wait to see how long a team can go before being brought down to earth with a loss. This year the Atlanta Falcons went 8-0 before losing to the New Orleans Saints. I’m sure the Falcons were feeling good about themselves. For eight games, they were invincible. Maybe some of us can relate to the feeling of being undefeated. Everything is going our way. Great job, beautiful wife, smart kids and a nice house. We are living the dream and want others to know. It’s during these times when our humility is tested the most because we want to exalt ourselves. We even lose sight of God being the One who blesses. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a “loss” to bring us back to reality and give us the proper view. As today’s verse says, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled.” My encouragement is for us to live a life of humility and leave the exalting to God. — BRYCE JOHNSON, SPORTS SPECTRUM

Gen 48-50

Gen 16-18

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

Not the Easy Way Out

One of my favorite plays in football is when a team goes for it on fourth down. To me, it shows that a coach has so much confidence and faith in his team that he’s willing to risk giving up field position or maybe a field goal try. Many coaches aren’t willing to call a play on fourth down and usually take the easier way out by punting or kicking a field goal. However, when a coach decides to go for it and the team gets the first down, they gain big momentum and faith in each other. Faith in God is what life is all about. It starts the belief that He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins and that we can live eternally with Him. Then, as we earnestly seek Him we can exercise our faith more and more by the decisions we make in life. We can lean on God’s guidance to lead us to do what He desires for us to do. Sometimes, He asks us to do something that is risky and it takes full faith that He’s going to equip us to do what He’s calling us to do. When we face these decisions we can decide to punt or have the faith to go for it on fourth down. Take a risk. Life is an adventure. Go for it on fourth down in total dependence on Him. — BRYCE JOHNSON, SPORTS SPECTRUM Ex 1-3 Gen 19-23 TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


THURSDAY “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

Browbeaten By Sin

I’ve heard the saying “don’t let the loss beat you twice” when players talk about moving on to the next game instead of dwelling on the game that just took place and ended in a loss. If a team focuses too much on the last game, they won’t be ready for the next one and a losing streak can quickly begin. This saying can be so important for us as well when it comes to the mistakes we make. I John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” We can truly believe this when we recognize what Jesus did on the cross. We don’t have to let guilt and shame dominate us and lead us to more sin. We just need to recognize our mistake, ask for forgiveness, and move on. We can’t let sin continue to win. — BRYCE JOHNSON, SPORTS SPECTRUM Ex 4-6 Gen 24

FRIDAY ”You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds...” Ephesians 4:22-23

Replace Your Attitude, Not the Ref

Referees in sports always get a bad rap, especially the infamous replacement officials at the start of the NFL season. Both players and coaches always seem to be arguing about a bad call or a lack of a call. It happens in every sport and there still has never been a perfect ref who has made every right call. I’m not so worried about the bad calls today. I’m concerned with the attitudes players and coaches have when the call doesn’t go their way. I want to focus on the last part of today’s verses where it talks about the attitude of our minds. When we have Christ living inside of us, we are made new and our attitudes should continue to change and reflect that. We can’t control every “call” in life, and plenty of situations won’t go the way we think they should. However, we can control how we respond during those times. There will be bad “calls” in life, but we can accept them and move forward with the right attitude. How often does a player complaining about a call actually change the ref’s mind anyway? How often does our complaining about our life’s circumstances change what happened? The one thing that can change is the attitude of our mind. — BRYCE JOHNSON, SPORTS SPECTRUM Ex 7-9 Gen 25-26

WEEKENDER “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive...”

I Thessalonians 5:14a

Going Long

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14a and meditate on what it says about complacency. Are you idle in any areas in your life? Ex 10-12 Gen 27-29 Ex 13-15

Wesley Hitt / Getty Images

Gen 30-31

WEEK 3

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PRO QUOTES S E R I E S : A P P LY I N G

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of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” II Corinthians 1:3-4

Drew Brees: Molding and Shaping

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SPORTS SPECTRUM

Drew Brees has seen the highs and lows of the NFL!multiple times. When he was with the San Diego Chargers, he experienced success on the field: He led the Chargers to a 12-4 record and a playoff berth, and he also played in the Pro Bowl. But he also experienced the disappointment of a team that didn’t want him a year later because of an injury. That up and down road continued with the New Orleans Saints: He won a Super Bowl, set NFL passing records and had several Pro Bowl berths. But he also experienced the team’s devastating and embarrassing bounty scandal. We’re susceptible to life’s roller coaster, as well. Ours, though, likely hasn’t involved (or won’t involve) fun and games or even a ball. It has involved or will involve life’s issues, which can be serious, causing stress, anxiety and unneeded turmoil. We can’t be discouraged, though. Rather, we should be encouraged because we know that God is the God of encouragement and compassion and will use those trials in our lives to mold, shape and grow us into the people He wants us to become. But more important, as II Corinthians 1:3-4 says, He will use those trials “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” — BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM Ex 16-18 Gen 32-34

TUESDAY “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:7

Aaron Rodgers: Faithful Friends

Having strong Christian friends can’t be taken lightly. It should be a requirement to move forward in life, because we so often fall when we don’t grow and don’t have accountability. For an NFL quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, who is constantly in the spotlight and under more pressure than ordinary people because of his position, accountability from Christian friends is desperately needed to survive this world. Proverbs 27:7 tells us that friends tell us the hard things to keep us humble (and accountable), like Rodgers says in his quote to the left. Ten verses later, Proverbs 27:17 reiterates how important friends are: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Who are your friends? Are they strong believers building you up so that you can minister to others? Or are they friends who can’t build into your life or friends who bring you down? Before you minister, you first have to be capable. And to do that, you have to have loving and godly friends who care about you and your witness for Christ. — BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM Ex 19-21 Gen 35-37

WEDNESDAY “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the

LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9

KURT WARNER

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34

QUOTES

MONDAY “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God

DREW BREES AARON RODGERS

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NFL

K ur t War ner: The Car Ride

More than anyone, Kurt Warner understands that his timing isn’t always God’s timing. He went undrafted in 1994, but the Green Bay Packers signed him as a free agent before releasing him after training camp. He then began stocking shelves at a grocery store, went to the Arena League in 1995, played three seasons and won multiple awards before being picked up by the St. Louis Rams in 1998, where he was eventually named the NFL MVP and led the Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV victory. Not lost in what Warner said (to the left) is that he didn’t promise that God would make us a “success” in society’s eyes. Warner’s point was that God will always be with us. That’s important because since God is with us, He knows what we’re going through. And if He knows what we’re going through, He knows how best to help us in those situations. The problem is that we get out of the car that God is driving and get in another car so that we can drive ourselves. Stay the course, ask God to help you get through whatever situation you are in, and know that God knows better than anyone how to get you to where He wants you. Ex 22-24

Gen 38-40

— BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM

TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


WEEK 4

THURSDAY “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

David Tyree: Peace of God, from God

Ex 25-27

DAVID TYREE

David Tyree knew he was missing something. He was playing in the NFL, and had earned high recognition as a rookie, yet he still lacked something. That something was peace. He realized that, and then realized that the peace he was looking for came from Christ and he accepted Christ as his Savior. The lack of peace is a story too often heard today from people who search after everything, get whatever they were searching for, and then find they were the same even after getting whatever it was they were chasing (Solomon realized this, which we see in the book of Ecclesiastes). Even New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady famously said during a 60 Minutes interview, “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what it is. I have reached my goal, my dream, my life is…’ Me, I think, ‘God, it’s got to more than this.’” The reporter then asked, “What’s the answer?” And Brady replied, “Wish I knew. Wish I knew.” If Brady would read Romans 5:1, he would know the answer: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus makes it even clearer that He is peace in John 16:33, John 14:27 and Ephesians 2:13-16. If you have been searching for true and lasting peace, heed the words of Tyree (to the right) and let Christ fill you by confessing your need for Him today as Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

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— BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM

Gen 41-42

FRIDAY “He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’” Acts 16:30-31

Justin Tuck: All In

— BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM

Gen 43-45

JUSTIN TUCK

Justin Tuck was right last year when he said before the Super Bowl that being “all in, in life… starts with our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Nothing else matters if that isn’t solidified. And if it is, nothing else matters if we’re not nourishing that relationship with Christ. (Galatians 6:8: “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”) And if our relationship with Christ is being nourished, and we’re growing, then we can do what Christ commanded us to do in Matthew 28:19-20: “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.” That is being “all in” and it all starts with Christ. Ex 28-29

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WEEKENDER “…encourage the disheartened.” I Thessalonians 5:14b

Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:14b and meditate on what it says about encouraging those who are disheartened. Do you think of encouraging others? Or do you only think about yourself? Ex 30-32

Gen 46-47

Ex 33-35

Gen 48-50

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W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

35


THE SUPER BOWL

S E R I E S : L E S S O N S F R O M S U P E R B O W L S PA S T

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36

SPORTS SPECTRUM

MONDAY â&#x20AC;&#x153;Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defiled the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.â&#x20AC;? I Samuel 17:36-37

Rightfully Confident

Super Bowl III will forever be remembered as one of the greatest upsets in sports history. A modern day David vs. Goliath, some would say. It will also be remembered for the confidence (or brashness) of a young quarterback named Joe Namath, who predicted days before the game that his New York Jets (from the young and inferior AFL) would beat the Baltimore Colts (from the established NFL). On Jan. 12, 1969, Namathâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s prediction came true as his Jets shocked the Colts, and the sports world, to win 16-7. Namath believed his team was good enough to win, and he let everyone know. David was seen as brash and confident, as well. His brothers thought he was brash, but God knew Davidâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heart and saw the confidence David exuded because of his trust in God as we see in I Samuel 17:45-47, which says, â&#x20AC;&#x153;David said to the Philistine, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORDâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, and he will give all of you into our hands.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a great reminder that any battle we are facing is Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and we can count on Him. We can always be confident that God will deliver usâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;in His way. â&#x20AC;&#x201D; BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM Ex 36-38 Ex 1-3

TUESDAY â&#x20AC;&#x153;â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;When men fall down, do they not get up? When a man turns away, does he not return?â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? Jeremiah 8:4

Tendency to Fail, Choice to Respond

The Denver Broncos entered Super Bowl XXXII on Jan. 25, 1998, against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers as 11½-point underdogs, but they were a seasoned team. Denver had been to four previous Super Bowls, but each loss was huge: by 17, 19, 32 and 45 points (with the last three being quarterbacked by future Hall of Famer John Elway). The Broncos still had Elway, who was determined to win as he neared the end of his career. He finally experienced Super Bowl victory as Denver scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1 minute, 45 seconds left, and then held off a late drive by Green Bay to preserve the 31-24 win. As Jeremiah 8:4 insinuates, when we fall down, it is assumed we will get back up. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why it says, â&#x20AC;&#x153;â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;When men fall down, do they not get up?â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? It should be a constant reminder to us that failures in life (sin included) should not cause us to wallow in our misery. It should propel us to try harder the next time. If it involves something other than sin, we need to keep going knowing that persistence will pay off. If it involves sin, we need to confess, repent, and accept Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s forgiveness (as I John 1:9 says), and continue living for Christ. Being a Christian doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mean we will be perfect, it just means we will be redeemed. â&#x20AC;&#x201D; BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM Ex 39-40 Ex 4-6

WEDNESDAY â&#x20AC;&#x153;I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the

secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.â&#x20AC;? Philippians 4:12-13

An Unfathomable Plan

The high-powered St. Louis Rams offense in 1999 will be remembered for being led by an unlikely person in Kurt Warner, who went from stocking groceries to leading the St. Louis Rams to Super Bowl XXXIV. Although it took several years for Warner to break into the NFL after college, he kept trying, because he kept believing. Appropriately, the 1999 season was capped off by the Ramsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; 23-16 Super Bowl victory against the Tennessee Titans, who were stopped on the final play just one yard short of the goal line, and Warner winning the Super Bowl MVP. Warnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rise to NFL success (see last weekâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s devotional) captivated millions because it inspired average people to believe in extraordinary things. Remember Philippians 4:13 and donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t sell yourself short of what God has in store for you. â&#x20AC;&#x201D; BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM Lev 1-4 Ex 7-9 TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


THURSDAY â&#x20AC;&#x153;The LORD turned to him and said, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midianâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hand. Am I not sending you?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Pardon me, my lord,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Gideon replied, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? Judges 6:14-15

Weak and Outnumbered

The New England Patriots were underdogs in Super Bowl XXXVI. It seems odd to say that now after the Patriotsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; dominance in the NFL the past decade and three Super Bowl titles in four years (200205). But on Feb. 3, 2002, New England fit that description well. The Patriots were facing a St. Louis Rams team that finished the regular season 14-2, and an offense that averaged 31.4 points per game and was known as â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Greatest Show on Turf.â&#x20AC;? The Super Bowl was also the second in three years for the Rams and they were led by two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner, who had passed for a league-best 36 touchdowns. The Patriots were led by Tom Brady, a second-year quarterback who only had the chance to start because nine-year veteran Drew Bledsoe was injured during the second game of the season. But the Patriots won their first Super Bowl, 20-17, capturing the title with a game-winning, 48-yard field goal as time expired. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a great reminder that what we know, or what we, see isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t always a determiner of what will happen when God is helping us, as we see in Judges 7:9, â&#x20AC;&#x153;During that night the LORD said to Gideon, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? Gideon saw Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s provision clearly. Gideon had 32,000 men from the â&#x20AC;&#x153;weakestâ&#x20AC;? group of people, and then chose only 300 men from the weakest group, which then fought, and defeated, at least 135,000 Midianites. We are definitely and desperately weak, but God is strongâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;so trust in Him to lead and guide you through this life and quit doubting His direction and provision for you today â&#x20AC;&#x201D; BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM Lev 5-7 Ex 10-12

FRIDAY â&#x20AC;&#x153;Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? Pharaoh said, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? Exodus 5:1-2

Up Against the Odds

WEEK 5

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The New England Patriots were the unbeatable team. The 18-0, NFL record-breaking, high-scoring offensive juggernaut that few thought could lose Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants on Feb. 3, 2008. But the Giants, who were only 10-6 and a wild card team, pulled off one of the biggest upsets in sports history, winning 17-14 and denying New England its place in history beside the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the NFLâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s only perfect Super Bowl-winning team. Moses was up against enormous odds, as well. On the surface, he had no chance to impose his demands on Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. But, because God was orchestrating everything, Moses had nothing to fear. But he still had to confront Pharaoh. And he still had to deal with the Israeliteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s doubt that he could lead, as well as their grumbling from having to work harder after Pharaoh didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t budge. But Moses confronted, endured and he stayed the course, and because of that he witnessed an incredible and miraculous deliverance of Israel from a powerful nation. Endure, stay the course, and believe, so that you can witness Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s power in your circumstances.

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â&#x20AC;&#x201D; BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM

Lev 8-10

Ex 13-15

WEEKENDER â&#x20AC;&#x153;â&#x20AC;Śbe patient with everyone.â&#x20AC;? I Thessalonians 5:14c

Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:14c and meditate on what it says about patience. Let this be a challenge to put our schedules, emotions, and aggravations aside to show others patience instead of annoyance. Lev 11-13 Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Ex 16-18

Lev 14-15

Ex 19-21 SPORTS SPECTRUM

37


COLLEGE BASKETBALL SERIES:

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LESSONS

NCAA

BASKETBALL

MONDAY “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Matthew 12:30

Heaven and K entucky

One of the current trends in college basketball is the one-and-done player. A player comes to school, plays one productive season, and leaves the school for the NBA. (Kentucky seems to groom these types by the dozen). Most fans don’t like it. Your team has a good season, maybe makes it to the Final Four, the talented freshman bolts for the league and leaves your team back at square one. I think most fans have distaste for the one-and-done player because it seems like the player was simply biding time until they moved to the NBA, almost as if the player never really loved playing for their school and never fulfilled their potential in the college ranks. Spiritually, you can compare the one-and-done player to being a lukewarm Christian. A lukewarm Christian may get saved, attend church, etc. but never pursue their relationship with God the way He wants them to. The Christian life, however, is a continual process of discovery and intimacy. It’s not a one-anddone process. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a long-term commitment. It’s a journey. — AARON MAY, SPORTS SPECTRUM Lev 16-18 Job 10-13

TUESDAY ”...in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:11

Shattered Plans

In the Sports Spectrum November DigiMag, one of our feature stories was on Butler’s Rotnei Clarke. Out of high school, Clarke committed to Arkansas and coach John Pelphrey. Clarke spent three highly productive seasons there, even amassing 51 points in a single game his junior season. But then it all fell apart. Pelphrey was fired, and many of his teammates were getting into trouble off the court. The coach he committed to was gone and the state of the program was unstable. What started out as his plan to go to a SEC powerhouse, play in the NCAA tournament, and be a winner, had gone poof. Oh, plus he had a serious injury that threatened his basketball career. Clarke’s plans from high school drastically changed. But God had a plan for him and led Clarke to transfer and play for Brad Stephens and Butler his senior season. “I just knew I was supposed to get out of there,” Clarke says. “I especially knew it when Coach Pelphrey got fired. I just didn’t feel comfortable with it at all. But it was hard because I dedicated so much to that program.” He is healthy now and leads Butler in scoring. He even had a buzzer-beating, game-winning shot in the Maui Invitational against Marquette. Like Clarke, sometimes our best laid-out plans don’t pan out the way we expected. But it is in God who we put our trust. It’s not bad to plan, but we must ultimately surrender to God’s plan, even if it doesn’t make sense. He wants to write the story of our lives. Do you want to forfeit control, surrender, and let Him write it? Even if it’s scary? It’s the best plan there is. Lev 19-21

— AARON MAY, SPORTS SPECTRUM

Job 14-16

WEDNESDAY “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Matthew 24:42

With Great Anticipation

The college basketball season is filled with many different moments of anticipation. Before the season starts, I can’t wait for my team’s first game, even though it’s against the Sisters of the Poor in order to get an easy win. I look forward with great excitement for the big game against our rival team, and I get excited for the conference schedule to start to see if my team is as good as I think it is. And, of course, there are many anxious moments on Selection Sunday to see if my team, which is usually on the bubble, will get into the NCAA Tournament. Spiritually, we need to anticipate Jesus’ return. We don’t know when He will return, but we should be ready. The thought of eternity should excite us. It should be our aim. If you are a Christian, do you consider yourself a citizen of this world? Or Heaven? What does your life indicate? It was C.S. Lewis who said, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” Lev 22-23

38

FROM

Job 17-20

— AARON MAY, SPORTS SPECTRUM TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


WEEK 6 THURSDAY “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” John 6:35

Rick Majer us, Legend and Lesson

One of the saddest sports stories in 2012 happened just a few weeks into the 2012-2013 college basketball season. The beloved coach of the Saint Louis Billikens, Rick Majerus, passed away at the age of 64. He was known for his brilliance with X’s and O’s, leading Utah to an unlikely championship appearance in 1998. He was known for a quirky and sometimes downright weird—yet humorous—personality. He was also loved by his players. In the press conference after last year’s hard fought, NCAA tournament loss to Michigan State, he and some of his senior players were in tears because they couldn’t play for him another season, and he could no longer coach them. He was also known for eating. Many of Majerus’ stories involve his enormous appetite. And ultimately, it cut his life short. A Yahoo! Sports columnist wrote that “Majerus might have accomplished even more in basketball were it not for health concerns caused by his weight issues and love for food.” Christian author Donald Miller says that sometimes it’s the things we love most that kill us. It’s our desires, our sin, our attraction to the things of this world that can ultimately destroy us. Christ must become our highest satisfaction and purpose. And nothing else. Lev 24-25 Job 21-23 — AARON MAY, SPORTS SPECTRUM

FRIDAY ”Jehu said, ‘Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.’ Then he had him ride along in his chariot.” II Kings 10:16

Matching the Passion

One of the coolest traditions in college basketball, in my opinion, is Taylor University’s ”Silent Night.” If you haven’t seen it, YouTube it. Thousands of fans sit completely silent until the 10th point, when the crowd erupts as if they’ve won the national championship. The party continues the remainder of the game until they sing “Silent Night” at the end. The best part about it is the way the students treat it. They go all out. Again, you have to YouTube it. It’s captivating. God is calling His followers to have a similar passion—a bold, unashamed zeal that captivates, encourages and motivates others. Faith without zeal must be questioned whether it’s really faith at all. If you truly believe in something, your actions typically reflect that belief. Lev 26-27 Job 24-28 — AARON MAY, SPORTS SPECTRUM

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WEEKENDER “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” I Thessalonians 5:15

Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:15 and meditate on what it says about striving to do what is good for others. It’s easy to think about what is best for ourselves. Often it’s all we think about. But let this be a challenge to place others at the forefront of our minds. Num 1-2

Job 29-31

Num 3-4

Job 32-34

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39


CONSISTENCY SERIES:

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STEADY

AND

GENUINE

FAITH

MONDAY ”So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16 ESV

Consistency and Believability

Rotnei Clarke, a senior at Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind., who was mentioned in last week’s devotional series and featured in Sports Spectrum’s All-Basketball DigiMag, lives a life best described, I think, as consistent. It’s why he is able to have the impact he does. He doesn’t allow outside circumstances to altar the core of his being, his faith. It’s consistency that makes what he believes, believable. And I think that’s the core of it—why consistency is so important. When I’m inconsistent in my faith, the believability of my faith suffers. Take free throws, for example. When an inconsistent free-throw shooter steps up to the line, it’s tough to believe he will make the free throws. His inconsistency affects believability. My best friend called me the other day. We talked about consistency the whole time. I told him I was frustrated with the inconsistencies of life. Nothing felt steady. Nothing felt reliable. “Well, maybe you should try making your faith consistent,” he told me. “Make the most important thing in your life, your faith, consistent.” It all made sense to me. In a fallen world, it’s inevitable there will be inconsistencies. And I could either exhaust myself over the inconsistencies of life, or I could make the most important think in life consistent. It may not fix everything. But it will help. — STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM Num 5-6 Lev 1-4

TUESDAY “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17 ESV

Believable to Yourself

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SPORTS SPECTRUM

In the devotion above, I mentioned the problems of an inconsistent free-throw shooter. We’ll call this character “Shaq, The Inconsistent Free-Throw Shooter.” Shaq’s inconsistency at the free-throw line results in a two-fold problem: 1) His inconsistency affects his belief in himself, and 2) His inconsistency affects others’ belief in him. In this devotional, we’ll address No. 1, how consistency in your faith is crucial to your belief in God. So what does that mean? What does it mean, exactly, to be consistent in your faith? I think being consistent in your faith means being consistent in your pursuit of God, just as a consistent husband or wife is constantly pursuing the heart of their spouse. PGA Tour golfer Aaron Baddeley, for example, gets up early every day, no matter what, to read his Bible. “Badds” is constantly pursuing God. John 15:4 says, “Abide in me, and I in you.” God becomes very real and believable to us because we are taking the time to get to know Him. When we don’t take the time to consistently know God, our own belief in God will consequently suffer. As Colossians 1:17 tells us, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” That’s why our belief can fall apart in inconsistency. Num 7

Lev 5-7

—STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM

WEDNESDAY “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Genesis 5:24 ESV

Believable to Others

One of my favorite things about working for Sports Spectrum is that I get to interview athletes who have believable faiths, which, in turn, encourages me to make my faith believable to others. I remember interviewing Aaron Baddeley, who I mentioned in the devotional above, and leaving the interview thinking, “I want that.” Badds talked about God like he had breakfast with Him that morning, like he had just walked an entire round of golf with Him. The way Badds talked about God was probably a small glimpse of the way Enoch talked about God, who was so close to God that the Lord took him. Talking to Badds, I didn’t feel guilty for not knowing God enough—that’s not the point—I just wanted to know Him more. As mentioned previously, that’s the crux to consistency. Consistency helps others believe. If we revisit “Shaq, The Inconsistent Free-Throw Shooter,” it’s his inconsistency that makes others doubt he is a good free-throw shooter. Is it your inconsistency that makes others doubt the existence of a Savior? Or do they want what you have? Do they (without feeling guilty) want to know God more? Or do they believe in God less? Num 8-10

Lev 8-10

— STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


THURSDAY “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years

WEEK 7

in the wilderness...” Deuteronomy 8:2 ESV

Consistency in Joy

There are few things that bring me more joy than writing a good sports story. I don’t care what it is—whether it’s a column, feature, or a chapter in a book—it’s fulfilling to me. It’s rewarding, like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to do. Even if no one reads it, at least it’s a story. It brings me joy. I have five words written on my white board in my office. It reads: “God writes crazy, beautiful stories.” It’s a constant reminder to me that—even though writing stories brings me joy—God is the author of every story I write. It helps me look upward instead of inward. Because when I do something fulfilling, it’s easy to think I’m the one who fulfills me. It’s easy to think it’s my story that I wrote with my abilities. It’s easy to forget God in joy, in fulfillment. It’s in your successes, in your fulfillment, and in your joy, that you inwardly realize how you feel about yourself in comparison to God. It’s in your successes, fulfillment, and joy that others can potentially see the depths of your arrogance and selfishness. I’ve begun to look at those five words in my office every day. In my joy, I want to be a mirror, merely reflecting the One who has given me joy. — STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM Num 11-13 Lev 11-13

FRIDAY “But godliness with contentment is great gain...” I Timothy 6:6 ESV

Consistency in Pain

Those who know me best would say I’m a little emotional—not in a cry-during-A Walk to Remember type of way, but in an act-on-my-emotions type of way. The first one is bad. The second one is worse. On the contrary, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, who was featured in the Sports Spectrum All-Basketball DigiMag, is the opposite. His emotions do not rule him. They do not dictate the way he treats others or the outcome of his day. I learned a lot from his story. The heart of Curry’s contentment is this: He is never too low because he understands how blessed he is. He’s constant. He’s content, as Paul talks about in Philippians. Even after a season where he missed more than half of Golden State’s games, he doesn’t let it drag him down. Many times, all it takes is one thing, or a build-up of things, to set me off. The point is that I find myself frequently blinded from my blessings because I’ve trapped my mind in the valley. But it’s in the valley that others can see the authenticity of your faith. It’s in the valley that you find out if your personal belief is real. Paul was content in every circumstance because all he saw was eternity. All he ever felt was blessed because his Savior died for him. In worldly pain, he remained constant because of eternal blessings. Num 14-15

Lev 14-15

—STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM

WEEKENDER “Rejoice always.” I Thessalonians 5:16

Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:16 and meditate on what it says about rejoicing. Let this be a challenge to set aside negativity and rejoice in the blessings of this life and the blessings of eternity. Num 16-17

Lev 16-18

Num 18-20

Lev 19-21

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W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

41


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MONSTERS CALLING HOME

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SPORTS SPECTRUM

STEADY

AND

GENUINE

FAITH

MONDAY “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” James 3:10 ESV

Consistency in Speech

Reggie Hodges, the punter for the Cleveland Browns, is looked to as a spiritual leader in the Cleveland locker room. After the 2010 season, he blew out his Achilles tendon in practice. As he lay on the ground, he remembers thinking, “If these men who have seen me walk with the Lord all of a sudden see that circumstances rule me, I’ll lose my opportunity to witness.” As Hodges lay on the ground he understood the power of words—that whatever he said in a moment of adversity could possibly communicate to his teammates that circumstances rule him. The thing I appreciate about Hodges is that he recognizes the power of words. He recognizes the power of the tongue, that his words need to back up what he believes. I don’t want you to miss the point here. My point isn’t for Christians to become legalistic—judging those who curse and make crude jokes. I hate legalism. And so does the world. Sometimes I think I curse just because I dislike legalism, and Christian legalists, so much. (And I’m not saying that’s right.) But the point is to understand the weight of your words. Understand that your words may be one of the main components that make your faith believable or not believable to others. — STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM Num 21-22 Lev 22-23

TUESDAY “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.” Psalm 37:7 ESV

Consistency in Busyness

I knew this guy in school who was a multi-sport collegiate athlete. He was responsible, dedicated to his trade, and regimented like he was in the army or something. He was the busiest guy I knew. The truth is that he was incredibly busy—busier than I could comprehend—but because he was so regimented, because he had a personal daily routine that included bedtime at 10, working out at 6:30, and breakfast at 8, there wasn’t a whole lot of flexibility in his schedule. His social life suffered. He couldn’t ever have fun at night. He had a regimented mindset that affected his social life. My point is this: I think we all have regimented mindsets that affect our spiritual lives. At least in my own life, my spiritual life takes a backseat to my work life. When I’m busy, accomplishing that task comes first. I have a regimented mindset. The task ahead comes first. And my spiritual life suffers. Our pursuit of God, the consistency of our faith, suffers when we’re absorbed in our to-do lists. Charles Spurgeon quoted a poem throughout his sermon, “Rest in the Lord,” and the second-to-last stanza goes like this: “This is a holier, sweeter rest, Than the lulling rest from pain, And a deeper calm than that which sleep, Sheds over heart and brain, It is the soul’s surrendered choice, The settling of the will, Lying down gently at the Cross, God’s purpose to fulfill.” — STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM Num 23-25 Lev 24-25

WEDNESDAY “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to

them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” James 2:15-16 ESV

Consistency in Action

I was never a great golfer in high school and college, especially high school. I had a desire to be a good golfer. I had the work ethic to be a good golfer. But my scores just never matched my desire and work ethic, unfortunately. I was like a bookworm who was a bad test-taker. When it counted—when it was time to put my desire and work into action—I rarely performed. My heart didn’t match my action, in a sense. My belief, my faith, didn’t match my works. That’s just the nature of golf. But it doesn’t have to be the nature of our lives. James noticed an unattractive hypocrisy among some Christians. He noticed a lack of consistency in their actions, or, in other words, their works. In verses 15 and 16 of Chapter 2 he gives an illustration of what faith looks like without works in every day life. “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” is merely a cop-out, masking laziness and a refusal to help. That type of action doesn’t match genuine faith. James goes on to say in verse 17, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Consistent action is crucial to genuine faith. Caring for others is crucial to genuine faith. How does your faith live itself out? This has nothing to do with legalism. This has everything to do with helping others—the core of who Jesus is. — STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM Num 26-27 Lev 26-27 TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


THURSDAY “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Romans 7:18 ESV

Consistency at Hear t

Revisiting my golf parallel from “Consistency In Action,” no coach or player questioned my desire to be good at golf. No one questioned my work ethic. It was there. I had the passion and drive. They only questioned my scores. That, however, as I said, is kind of the nature of golf. All golfers are destined to fail. The sport doesn’t owe you a single thing, no matter how hard you work. All golfers are destined to fail. Some just fail less gracefully. Carding high scores is a problem—don’t get me wrong. I was benched for tournaments because of it. But I think a bigger problem would have been a lack of passion, work ethic, or desire. Apathy is a lethal poison. A coach can forgive a player for having a bad game. He can’t forgive a player for skipping practice. That being said, I think the most important thing about Romans 7:18 is that Paul has “the desire to do what is right.” People, after all, are like golfers. They are destined to fail, destined to sin, destined to fall short of a perfect and holy God. Some just fail less gracefully. But the second you take a sip of the flask labeled “Apathy” is the second you start to corrupt the very core of your being, your soul, your faith. You’re not always going to do what is right, but do you have the desire to do what is right? You probably won’t always grow in your faith, but do you have the desire to grow? Is your heart consistent? Or has apathy begun to rot your core? Num 28-30

— STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM

Num 1-2

FRIDAY “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a per-

fect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” James 3:2 ESV

Inconsistency in Our DNA

I really like the verse above. It shows that James’ call to good works shouldn’t be read as a call to perfection. He doesn’t expect perfection. And he knows it’s unattainable. This is my point, as well, to conclude this series. After reading nine straight devotionals about consistency, I understand that it’s probably easy to get down about your inconsistencies. It’s probably easy to feel like a terrible person after reading a series like this. Many of these devotionals were difficult for me to write. But the point of this series isn’t to make you feel bad. Inconsistency is in our DNA. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay. A free-throw shooter is bound to miss free throws; but that doesn’t mean he’s happy with missing them. A golfer is bound to card some bad scores; but that doesn’t mean he’s happy with a bad round. I like the footnotes for James 3:2 in my ESV Study Bible: “James’ call for good works, therefore, must not be seen as expecting perfection…It is a perfection, however that will be attainable only in heaven. Still, believers should always seek to grow in holiness.” This series is a call to growth—a call for consistency—not a call to be perfect. It’s consistency that shows where we are heading. A long-distance runner trains to keep a certain pace. It’s what makes him or her a good runner. After all, a runner who walks in the middle of a race or stops to catch a breath will consequently have a slower time. It’s the runner’s pace, the runner’s consistency, that makes his time fast or slow. You may cramp. You may have a bad mile. But keep the pace. Remain consistent in your joy, pain, speech, busyness, heart and action so that what you believe is believable to yourself and believable to others. Num 31-32

Num 3-4

—STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM

WEEKENDER “Pray continually.” I Thessalonians 5:17

Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:17 and meditate on the importance of prayer. What does it mean when the Bible says to pray continually? Why do you think it says to pray continually? Num 33-34

Num 5-6

Num 35-36

Num 7

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WEEK 8

DCK'L;M< SPORTS CATASTROPHES OF 2012

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IN HIS GRIP SERIES:

LESSONS

FROM

THE

LINKS

MONDAY “But as for you, man of God, shun all this; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” I Timothy 6:11

Take Dead Aim

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QUOTEABLES

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SPORTS SPECTRUM

Harvey Penick wrote “Take Dead Aim.” In just three words he emphatically says your aim should be sure and clear, focused directly on the goal or target. Do not step up to the ball until you have made sure where you are aiming. Every golf instructor makes a similar point by saying that we must have a clear vision of the target and focus on it. The target must be something specific such as a certain tree in the skyline, a marker, or the middle of the green. In life we also need to identify our target, our ultimate purpose, and then aim at it. We need to set specific goals and avoid the distractions. If we are distracted by too many goals or by short-term projects and lesser opportunities, we will probably not achieve the most important goals we have set for ourselves. In I Timothy we are encouraged to shun those things which are temptations and distractions from God. We are to aim at that which is of God. Since there is much to distract us from the best God has to offer, we must take dead aim on the really important things in our life. What are your goals? What do you want to complete and accomplish? Swing Thought: Aim at the right targets, define them, establish specific goals, and avoid all temptations and distractions. Deut 1-2

Num 8-10

— SCOTT LEHMAN, IN HIS GRIP

TUESDAY “...asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:9-10

Visualize Your Target

Visualizing the target is important in golf and life. Byron Nelson said “One of the most important— and often overlooked—factors in making a good golf swing is visualizing your target beforehand.” Instead of making the ball the target, you get better results when, “The spot where you want your ball to finish is the target, and by being aware of that spot, you give your swing direction” (“Shape Your Swing the Modern Way,” Golf Digest, 1976, p.74). What is the target of your life? Bob Buford wrote in Half Time that many men come to the half-time of their life, analyze what happened in the first half, and realize they need a new strategy for the second half. A later book by Buford, Game Plan, is about making plans for the second half by figuring out what is significant in life and setting a course of action to get there. Significance is based in who I am as a person. Success is based in what I do as a person. Unfortunately, many people realize too late that to achieve significance you have to include it in your target. Otherwise you are likely to aim only at success. Swing Thought: A life of significance is a worthy target. — SCOTT LEHMAN, IN HIS GRIP Deut 3-4 Num 11-13

WEDNESDAY “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was

in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1: 1-4

Alignment

Next to the foundation provided by the grip, alignment is considered by many instructors to be the number one fundamental of a good golf shot. Even minor alignment problems can be a problem for players at any ability level. Our mind needs a specific target and our shoulders, hips and feet need to be in line with that target. This improves our chances of hitting the ball in the intended direction. Even tour professionals practice their alignment and focus on it during a round. Brian Mogg, former PGA Tour player and a teacher at the David Leadbetter Schools, refers to Hebrews 12:2 to compare alignment in golf to alignment with Christ. Alignment with God requires aiming your life at Jesus by (1) getting to know Him, and (2) becoming like Him. We get to know Him by spending time with Him in prayer, reading God’s Word, and fellowshipping with those with similar beliefs. We can easily get caught up in the do’s and don’ts of religion, but ultimately the best approach is to fix our eyes on Jesus and align our beliefs and actions with Him and God’s Word. Swing Thought: My life must be aligned with the target of knowing and serving Jesus Christ. — SCOTT LEHMAN, IN HIS GRIP Deut 5-7 Num 14-15 TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


WEEK 9 THURSDAY “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

Think About These Things

Brian Mogg, a former PGA Tour player, says that when sizing up a hole or particular shot, it is important to always choose a target and a plan on how to most effectively get the ball to that target. Having a target and plan helps overcome doubt and negative thoughts in decision making and execution of the shot. Otherwise, under the pressure of competition, it is easy to fall victim to distracting thoughts and feelings. In life it is all too easy to focus on the obstacles rather than focus on the goal. Brian points to this passage in Philippians as one with wise counsel for the challenges of every day living and for golf. According to this verse we are to focus our attention on that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and worthy of praise. That is a positive thought for golf and for life. Focusing on the positive makes life more fun, rewarding and successful. It will do the same for your golf. Swing Thought: Brighten your day, brighten your golf. Overcome the negative by focusing on the positive. Deut 8-10

— SCOTT LEHMAN, IN HIS GRIP

Num 16-17

FRIDAY “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John l: 1-4

See the Whole Picture

Many golfers tend to concentrate on the parts of their swing and miss seeing the whole picture. As a result they have little feel for the swing. Eric Prain says this: “We look upon the golf swing as a series of movements made by various parts of the body whose sum total will eventually bring the club head to the ball…In order to keep any part of (the golf swing) in perspective we must review the action as a whole. For it is at its best an unbroken motion. To stress one part unduly must destroy the rhythmic flow.” Tom Lehman added, “Even when working on only a certain part of the swing, always see it as part of the whole, starting with the pre-shot routine right on through to the flight of the ball, the spin on it and how it will bounce once it lands.” If we do not stay centered on Jesus and God’s Word, there are many ways to become distracted by details and tangent thoughts. We must see the whole picture and then the parts can fall into perspective. Swing Thought: Ask Jesus to give you a perspective of your life. He is the whole picture. Deut 11-13

Num 18-20

— SCOTT LEHMAN, IN HIS GRIP

WEEKENDER “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18

Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:18 and meditate on what it says about a thankful heart. How can you be thankful in your current circumstance? How can you embrace your trial instead of fearing it? Deut 14-16

Num 21-22

Deut 17-20

Num 23-25

Christian Petersen / Getty Images

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DEVOS FROM TOM LEHMAN, CHAMPIONS TOUR PLAYER. VISIT BEN CRANE’S WEBSITE TO SUBSCRIBE.

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SPORTS SPECTRUM

A P P LY I N G

THE

OLD

TESTAMENT

MONDAY “For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my spirit; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.” Lamentations 1:16 ESV

A Judging God

Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” is my favorite praise song to play on my guitar, and I frequently sing it to my distracted soul as a reminder of the lifelong, intimate relationship I have with a perfect, holy God who wants my very all, who wants my soul to “sing like never before.” As I read Lamentations 1, however, I see a different side of God—a side of God that still loves unconditionally yet differently. Lamentations 1 reveals a God who judges, and, yes, even turns His back on those who constantly rebel without repentance. I read about a city, Jerusalem, crying out in anguish as the Lord allowed the Babylonians, a godless nation, to destroy the holy city in 587 B.C. Contrary to “10,000 Reasons,” Lamentations 1 shows the pain of a life (or city) without God. Yet both reveal the magnificence of lifelong, unconditional, passionate love—one in joy, the other pain. The immense pain Jerusalem experienced (read Lamentations 1) shows the realities of a relationship with God. There would be no pain for turning from Him if a relationship didn’t exist. I had a coach in college who I had a deep relationship with. Yet I remember one instance where I let him down and I felt sick to my stomach. I felt like Jerusalem. The pain I felt showed the reality and depth of our relationship. Don’t forget the realities of your relationship with God. The God of the Bible shows unconditional love to his people, but sometimes He does that through judgment and pain, like a Babylonian invasion that awakens an entire city. — STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM Deut 21-23 Num 26-27

TUESDAY “The Lord has become like an enemy; he has swallowed up Israel; he has swallowed up all its palaces; he has laid in ruins its strongholds, and he has multiplied in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.” Lamentations 2:5 ESV

A Serious God

I graduated from a school called Grace College. It’s in northern Indiana, and people wear boots to class from October through March. I worked in Grace’s athletic department for some time, and it was interesting to see the administration change the athletic culture at Grace. Grace made a transition to make athletics more of a priority. They started hosting alumni events, created an athletic Hall of Fame, bought nice Adidas gear for its teams, and made improvements to its athletic facilities. The biggest transition they made was the hiring of a number of head coaches. They replaced lackadaisical coaches with passionate coaches. For the athletes, it may have been more intense, time-demanding, and stressful, but the seriousness of the calling produced better results. I don’t want a God who is merely an idea. I don’t want a God I use as an excuse to give my life meaning. I want a God who is real, a God with a serious calling. I find his judgment of Jerusalem both frightening and enlightening in regards to the seriousness of His calling. Read Lamentations 2 and think about the punishment he laid on Jerusalem for her repeated sin. Then reflect on the seriousness of His calling in your own life. — STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM Deut 24-27 Num 28-30

WEDNESDAY “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion

according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3:31-33 ESV

A Caring God

It’s difficult to read the first two chapters of Lamentations. It’s gruesome. It’s dark. It’s messy. How could God allow the godless Babylonians to kill His own people, destroy His own city, and even invade His own temple? But if you stop there, you’ll probably feel like the Israelites did: depressed. In Lamentations 3, we see the purpose behind God’s punishment and the transition inside the minds of the Israelites. God’s first instinct is not to punish. He only does so when His patience doesn’t lead to repentance. His punishment woke the Israelites up. His punishment showed He cared. When I was younger, my friends and I would play a lot of pick-up basketball in my backyard. Looking back, the best games involved emotion. It was fun when there was a fight. It was fun when there was sweat and scrapes. When it was messy, when there was emotion, it showed that we cared. I really appreciate the God of the Bible. He’s unlike any other god in any other religion. He gets messy. He shows emotion, even wrath. It’s because He cares. — STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM Deut 28-29 Num 31-32 TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


THURSDAY ”The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter of Zion, is accomplished; he will keep you in exile no longer; but your iniquity, O daughter of Edom, he will punish; he will uncover your sins.” Lamentations 4:22 ESV

A Sovereign God

As an Indianapolis Colts fan, 2011-12 was a frustrating year. Peyton Manning, quite possibly the best quarterback to ever play the game, missed the entire season. The Colts lost almost every game. And then the Colts cut the best quarterback to play the game. Jim Irsay had to convince Colts fans that, even though he was getting rid of Manning to draft Andrew Luck, the Colts franchise would one day be restored. Success would come again. The fourth chapter of Lamentations isn’t an easy read. It talks about the suffering of Jerusalem’s children (4:1-10), God’s punishing of its religious leaders (4:11-16), and the power of its enemies (4:17-20). Like much of the book, it feels like there is no escape, like God will forever punish the Israelites. But the thing I like about this chapter is that it shows God’s sovereignty. In the Babylonian invasion, in any suffering, even when things seem dim, God is still sovereign. At the end of the fourth chapter, the Lord announces that His punishment is also complete, that the darkness has passed. Even when the Lord is delivering the punishment, isn’t it comforting to know He is in charge? Isn’t it comforting to know He cares about the well-being of souls? Maybe you’re paying for the earthly consequences of your sin right now. Or maybe you’re just going through this thing called “life” and things aren’t perfect. Even if His heart is broken over your sin, He is still in control. Even in his wrath against the Israelites, a wrath that has since been spilled on His only son, He was still in control. Never forget that God is sovereign. Deut 30-31

— STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM

Num 33-34

FRIDAY “But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations. Why do you forget us

forever, why do you forsake us for so many days? Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old—unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.” Lamentations 5:19-22 ESV

A Restoring God

I was playing in a golf tournament at my home course in high school, and my mom was following me. I was on the eighth hole, a tricky, uphill par-3, when I hit a flush 7-iron toward the right side of the green. I liked it. I was trying to salvage my round and bounce back. Judging by the ball flight, I figured I would have a shot at birdie on No. 8. That’s when the ball landed and took a monster kick to the right, landing right on the base of a tree. All of a sudden I was staring at making bogey or worse. I cursed. Loudly. Several times. My mother looked at me, shocked and embarrassed. “Stephen Michael,” she said sternly. “I’ll pull you out of this tournament right now.” I was pretty embarrassed, too. I didn’t mean to say the words I did in front of all my playing partners, their parents, and my own mother. I just did. Once the round was over, I knew that I needed to apologize to my mom for what I said. I knew that I may still face a punishment, and she may not let me play in my next summer tournament, but I had to restore our relationship. At the end of Lamentations, we see the Israelites crying out to God to restore their relationship with their Father. Only God can do the restoring. But they knew what they needed to do: confess heartfelt repentance. As believers, we are called to take our walks with God seriously, and they should be marked by continual confession and repentance. Don’t let a catastrophe be the thing that wakes you up. Deut 32-34

Num 35-36

— STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM

WEEKENDER “Do not quench the Spirit.” I Thessalonians 5:19

Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:19 and meditate on what it means to walk in the Spirit. What does it mean to quench the Spirit? Do you rely more on yourself or do you acknowledge the power inside you, the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead? Josh 1-4 Deut 1-2 Josh 5-8

Deut 3-4

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WEEK 10

DCK'L;M< THINGS PEYTON MANNING MAY SAY TO ANDREW LUCK IF THE COLTS AND BRONCOS MEET IN THE PLAYOFFS

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PHILEMON SERIES:

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JOVAN BELCHER’S MURDER/SUICIDE BROUGHT FORTH A NUMBER OF ISSUES, ONE OF WHICH BROADCASTER BOB COSTAS ADDRESSED ON AIR: THE TOPIC OF GUN CONTROL.

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A P P LY I N G

SPORTS SPECTRUM

NEW

TESTAMENT

MONDAY “And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” Philemon 6 ESV

A Knowledge to Explore

There are so many digital options for NFL fans who aren’t going to the game. Things like “NFL Sunday Ticket” and “NFL Redzone” help fans make the most of their NFL Sunday experience. They’ve done such a good job of marketing their products, in fact, that I feel like I am missing out by not having it. I feel like my football experience is lacking. In Paul’s letter to Philemon, he tells Philemon that sharing his faith will help him experience Christ to the full. My ESV Study Bible states: “Philemon’s sharing will result in his own deeper knowledge of every good thing in Christ, that is, a deeper awareness and experience of the blessings that Christ has for him.” Sharing your faith, in a sense, is essential to experiencing everything Christ has to offer. I knew this kid in college named Alex who couldn’t stop talking about his faith, no matter where he went. It was kind of weird, honestly. I didn’t know what to think of it. But I could also tell that the way he experienced Christ publicly was different than the way I experienced Christ privately. It was richer. It was more real. Alex challenged me in a lot of ways because I wanted to experience God the way he experienced God. As Paul writes to Philemon, I want to experience God to the full. I want to live out what I believe. — STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM Josh 9-11 Deut 5-7

TUESDAY “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” Philemon 7 ESV

Belief in Boston

I recently watched Four Days In October, an ESPN 30 for 30 film about the Boston Red Sox’s amazing playoff comeback against the New York Yankees after falling down 3-0 in the series in 2004. It’s an unbelievable story, a story that never grows old (unless you are a Yankees fan). Boston is the only team in MLB history to come back after trailing 3-0 in a best-of-7 series, and they did it against a hated rival on the world’s largest stage. The thing I really liked about the documentary was that you got to know the Boston Red Sox players in the context of their relationships with each other. They were a fun, goofy group of guys who seemed to have a unique camaraderie that helped propel them to the World Series and bury the “Curse of the Bambino.” There was something special about the Red Sox’s chemistry that year, and it resulted in a special season. In Philemon 7, Paul talks about the joy he receives from seeing Philemon minister and encourage fellow Christians. Paul notices that Philemon has an admirable and attractive love for his fellow believers. The verse, to me, is a reminder that lives are perfected in the context of relationships. And, similar to the 2004 Red Sox team, special things can happen when believers unite and encourage one another. Josh 12-15

Deut 8-10

— STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM

WEDNESDAY “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and me.” Philemon 11 ESV

Power Shif t

My senior year at Grace College, the Indiana Mr. Basketball runner-up transferred from NCAA Division I East Tennessee State University to NAIA Division II Grace. He was an unbelievable addition to our basketball team that shocked our conference. Before he came along, I didn’t think our team would be very good. But his arrival at Grace changed everything, and we ended up going to the national tournament that year. It showed the power of one transfer and how it completely changed the dynamic of our season. After the seventh verse in the book of Philemon, Paul begins his plea for the slave Onesimus, who once stole from Philemon and ran away. Since his theft and departure, however, Onesimus became obedient to Christ and had become useful to Paul. The remainder of the book of Philemon is a plea from Paul to Philemon to welcome Onesimus back with open arms because of his change of heart. Like the story about our star transfer, Paul’s account of Onesimus also shows power, the power of the gospel. The account of Onesimus is a reminder that the gospel radically changes everything. Do you recognize its eternal power, or are you hindered by the world? Josh 16-18

48

THE

Deut 11-13

— STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM

TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


THURSDAY ”For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” Philemon 15-16 ESV

Defined by What?

There are some beautiful redemption stories in the sporting world. Take Michael Vick, who was incarcerated for barbaric dog fighting and gambling across state lines, or the Baylor University men’s basketball program, which witnessed a murder of one of its players by a teammate and numerous NCAA violations in 2003 (at a Christian school, mind you) until Scott Drew and his staff came in and turned the program around. Unfortunately, some people will always see Michael Vick for his wrongdoings and Baylor for its sin. People may never forgive Vick as a person and Baylor as an institution. Some will forever define them for their sin. Because of the gospel, Paul pleads for Philemon to look past Onesimus’s sin and past. Though he stole and fled from Philemon, which was wrong, Paul pleads for Philemon to view Onesimus through the lenses of the gospel, to treasure Onesimus’s eternal value instead of his worldly sin. He asks Philemon to view Onesimus “no longer as a slave but more than a slave,” emancipating him, and “as a beloved brother.” What about you? Maybe you don’t see your own eternal value, thus neglecting the power of the gospel. Are you defined by your sin? What about others? Maybe you don’t see their eternal value, thus neglecting the power of forgiveness in the cross. Do you define them by their sin? The gospel, on the contrary, conquers sin and grants forgiveness. We are defined by Christ, not our past. — STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM Josh 19-21 Deut 14-16

FRIDAY “I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.” Philemon 19 ESV

Give Until You’re Empty

It’s been said that quarterbacks get too much credit when things are going well and too much flack when things are going poorly. After the Green Bay Packers’ questionable start to the season, I saw an interview with Aaron Rodgers where he took full blame for the team’s struggles. I liked that. To me, it showed leadership. He was putting the weight of the Packers’ difficulties on his own shoulders, even though it wasn’t all his fault, and making a commitment to Packer Nation that he would get things turned around. He took more responsibility than he needed to, and I liked that. I think there’s a certain responsibility in following Christ, a responsibility where we are called to go the extra mile, even if it’s not fair by the world’s standards. In conflict, Christians should be first to apologize, first to make amends. They should be first to forgive, first to love. At the end of the book of Philemon, we see Paul writing to Philemon that, whatever Onesimus has stolen, Paul will repay him in full, a weighty promise considering he was imprisoned at the time. But the thing I like about it is that it shows leadership. It shows that Paul cares far more about others than his own comfort. We are called to do the same. Leaders do more than they are required. They take more blame than they deserve. They don’t fit into the world because people of the world want what they believe they deserve. Leaders, on the other hand, are servants. — STEPHEN COPELAND, SPORTS SPECTRUM

Josh 22-24

Deut 17-20

WEEKENDER “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all;” I Thessalonians 5:20

Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:20 and meditate on what it means to search and treasure Scripture. Are you hungry to read the Word? Are you hungry to challenge the Word and learn on your own, or does it need to be spoon-fed every Sunday? Jud 1-2

Deut 21-23

Jud 3-5

Deut 24-27

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READER SUBMITTED SERIES:

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LESSONS

FROM

OUR

READERS

MONDAY “Truth shall spring out of the ground...” Psalm 85:11

Proof and Tr uth

How much stronger are claims to the truth when those claims are unquestionably verified? In Game 4 of the 1957 World Series, the Yankees took a 5-4 lead over the Braves in the top of the 10th inning. In the bottom of the 10th, during his at bat, Nippy Jones claimed he was hit on the foot by a pitch. A long argument ensued until the Braves convinced the umpire to look at the baseball. In those day, players wore cleated shoes that could hold a polish. There was shoe polish on the ball! Sure enough, Nippy Jones’ claim was true. He was awarded first base and the Braves rallied for three runs, winning the game on Eddie Matthews’ walk-off, two-run homer. Bible critics for years scoffed at the Luke 3:1 description of various rulers holding office in particular places during the time of John the Baptist. Then, archaeologists found clay tablet inscriptions proving those rulers were in office in those places at that time. Also, many scholars said David was a mythical figure since there was no hard evidence about his life. Once again, archaeologists uncovered an inscription naming David as King of Judah. The Bible has been accused of being untrue numerous times. Each time, it is the accusations that have been shown to be false. God’s Word is true. — STANLEY TUCKER, READER SUBMITTED Jud 6-7 Deut 28-29

TUESDAY “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus

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Christ, Who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” Philippians 3:20,21

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A Princess and an Outfielder

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What does an Egyptian princess have in common with a Texas Rangers outfielder? I Chronicles 4:17,18 tells the brief story of Bithiah, a daughter of Pharaoh, who bore three children to Mered, a descendant of Caleb in the tribe of Judah. A daughter of Pharaoh? Married to a Jewish peasant? How did that happen? It could be she was a daughter of the Pharaoh of the Exodus who in desperation left with Moses and the Israelites, and later was married to Mered. But what’s more fascinating is her name. Bithiah means “daughter of Yahweh.” Now, how does a daughter of a pagan monarch wind up with a name like that? More than likely, it’s because she converted and began following the Lord. Her name was changed, because her life changed. Josh Hamilton started well in baseball and got saved. Then he was injured, delved into drugs and alcohol, and finally hit rock bottom. He was out of baseball for four years. He eventually recommitted his life to Christ, began following the LORD, and his life CHANGED. Few, if any, professional ballplayers have had as dramatic a turnaround as Josh Hamilton. Bithiah was an ancient princess, and Josh Hamilton was a contemporary pro athlete. Both turned to the LORD. Both changed. Are you near the end of your rope? Have you fallen away from the Lord? Do you want your life to change? Trust Jesus. Follow Him. Change is guaranteed. — STANLEY TUCKER, READER SUBMITTED Jud 8-9 Deut 30-31

WEDNESDAY “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

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50

SPORTS SPECTRUM

Terry Bradshaw had it. Joe Montana had it. Brett Favre had it. In today’s NFL, Ben Roethlisberger has it. So does Drew Brees. So does Eli Manning. All of these former and present quarterbacks (and many others as well) have the ability to completely forget about the last play, whether it was a touchdown pass or an interception. It is a trait that enables them to keep moving forward. God also has a short memory with regard to our sins. Micah 7:19b says He “will cast all our sin into the depths of the sea.” Henry Morris took that to mean ‘utter depths,’ as in the Mariana Trench at more than 36,000 feet, a place where no man can go. Also, Isaiah 38:17c says “you have cast all my sin behind Your back.” Finally, H. A. Ironside comments on the opening verse this way: “If you got into an airplane and flew north continuously, you would eventually cross the North Pole and begin going south. But if you got into an airplane and flew east continuously, you would never be going west. If you turned the plane 180 degrees and flew west continuously, you would never be going east.” Are you a Christian haunted at times by past sins? Rest assured, God isn’t. He has forgotten all about them. Isn’t that a great incentive to move forward and serve Him? — STANLEY TUCKER, READER SUBMITTED Jud 10-12 Deut 32-34 TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


WEEK 12 THURSDAY “Around the throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones I saw 24 elders sitting, clothed in white robes, and they had crowns of gold on their heads.” Revelation 4:4

Divine Proximity

One of the goals of the powers that be in the NFL is to achieve parity in the league, which is a good thing. Who wants to see the same two teams in the Super Bowl every year? So, the Super Bowl winner this year will get the last pick in next year’s draft, and the team with the worst record this year will get the first pick in next year’s draft. Of course, there is allowance for teams to make trades involving players and draft picks, so there is room to “work the system” to maintain parity and stay competitive. God believes in parity, but from a different perspective. Charles Spurgeon says the above verse implies that the 24 elders (representing believers from any place on the globe) are equally near to the throne. What a cool perspective! Acts 10:34 also says that “God is no respecter of persons”. He doesn’t regard any believer as better than another. You don’t have to “work the system” or “compete” to get close to God either. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek...male or female...slave nor free...you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Ken Ham puts it this way: “There is only one race...the human race.” Your accent, your athletic, economic or political status, your gender or skin color—none of these matter to Him. This is what matters: If you belong to Jesus, He is near to you. — STANLEY TUCKER, READER SUBMITTED Jud 13-15 Josh 1-4

FRIDAY “...These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:31

Ink Pens

Manager Tony LaRussa would wear the same socks as long as his team was winning. Baseball fans turn their caps inside out to start rallies in the ninth inning. Some bearded players have shaved off their beards to stop a losing streak. Do you, like these people, have “good luck charms” or superstitions? I admit I do. I carry ink pens with red designs on them when the St. Louis Cardinals are at home, and ink pens with blue designs on them when the Cards are on the road. But “good luck” charms and superstitions don’t always work. The same is true in the spiritual realm. Wearing a cross or religious icon won’t guarantee your eternal destiny. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. If you spend the night in the garage, you won’t wake up as a car! The only thing that reserves your seat in Heaven is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your Savior. As the verse above indicates, it is a matter of faith. Do you know for sure where you will spend eternity? If not, check out the book written by the apostle John in the New Testament. It could change your life. — STANLEY TUCKER, READER SUBMITTED

Jud 16-18

Josh 5-8

WEEKENDER “...hold on to

what is good,” I Thessalonians 5:21

Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:21 and meditate on what it means to hold on to what is good and to avoid what is evil. What can you hold on to? What do you need to let go of? Jud 19-21

Josh 9-11

Ruth

Josh 12-15

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MONDAY “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” I Corinthians 3:11-13

The Total Life

The UCLA men’s basketball teams of the 1960s and 1970s will be remembered for their dominance of college basketball during that era and for stars like Lew Alcinder (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich, Walt Hazzard and others. Most memorable, though, will be coach John Wooden, the man who led UCLA to 10 NCAA men’s basketball titles, including seven straight (1967-1973), in a 12-year span (1964-1975). He was nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood” for his mastery as a coach, as he compiled a 664-162 record for a stunning .804 winning percentage. He had four 30-0 seasons, and, at one point, UCLA won 88 consecutive games, a record that still stands. But Wooden, who passed away on June 4, 2010, at age 99 (about four months from his 100th birthday), was more than just the wins and losses. “I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior.” John Wooden wrote in They Call Me Coach. Wooden understood that things like trophies, championship banners, recognition for winning basketball games, etc., had little meaning by themselves. He understood that the most important thing we could do in this life was to commit our lives to Christ and to live for Him. I Sam 1-3 Josh 16-18 — BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM

TUESDAY “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected

him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” I Samuel 16:7

Only God’s Opinion

Every basketball fan knows the name Bill Russell, the Hall of Famer who helped the Boston Celtics win 11 NBA titles in 13 years. And some basketball aficionados will remember that Russell helped the University of San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 1955 and 1956. However, most likely don’t realize that people thought Russell couldn’t shoot well. They thought he was just a 6-foot-9 blocking and rebounding machine (who, by the way, was so good at rebounding that the foul lanes were widened to 12 feet from six feet during his playing days). Ultimately, what people thought of Russell didn’t matter. What mattered was what Russell did. He wasn’t limited by people, only by himself. If he chose to live up to the standards people placed on him, he would have only blocked shots and rebounded. But his passion was to help his team and do his best, not live up to (or down to in this case) the opinions of others. Those opinions were similar to the ones people had of David, who wasn’t considered worthy to be King (so much so that he was still out in the field tending sheep when Samuel asked to see Jesse’s children so that he could anoint God’s choice as king). Are you living the life God designed you to live, or are you living up to (or down to) what others think or see you as being? — BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM I Sam 4-8 Josh 19-21

WEDNESDAY “David said to Saul, ‘Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.’ Saul replied, ‘You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.’” I Samuel 17:32-33 MAY

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THE HEIGHTS OF LONDON STORIES AND INTERVIEWS FROM THE 2012 OLYMPIC GAMES THAT GO FAR BEYOND MEDALS

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Reality, Not Perception

Oscar Robertson, or “The Big O” as he was nicknamed, won three NCAA Player of the Year awards, averaged 33.8 points during his college career, and led Cincinnati to two Final Fours and a 79-9 record from 1957-1960. But most people don’t realize that he never won an NCAA Championship. The backto-back NCAA titles that Cincinnati won came after Robertson left school. Even more astonishing than Cincinnati doing it without Robertson, was that both titles came against an Ohio State squad that had won the championship in the previous season and featured future Hall of Famers John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas. When it appears like things are stacked against you, do you run and hide (believing that all is lost) or do you rely on God by asking Him for the strength to face the giants in your life with strength only God can provide? I Sam 9-12

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Josh 22-24

— BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM

Grant Halverson / Getty Images


WEEK 13 THURSDAY “So about three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water.” Joshua 7:4-5

Sin and Defeat

The year was 1991 and the Duke men’s basketball team was in the Final Four, facing an undefeated and defending NCAA champion UNLV team that had beaten Duke 103-73 for the national championship the previous year in the most lopsided title game in NCAA history. For anyone but Duke’s players, coaches and the players’ parents to think they had a chance in 1991 was laughable. But Duke pulled it off, upsetting UNLV in the semifinal and going on to win their first NCAA Championship and then repeating as champion the following season. Duke was a failure (and in a huge way), then they were champions. Like Duke, Israel was defeated in an embarrassing way as we see in Joshua 7:4-5. The defeat at the hands of Ai was so devastating that “the hearts of the people melted and became like water.” Israel’s defeat, though, was caused by the sin of one man, Achan. After that sin was dealt with, Joshua 8 tells us that Israel defeated Ai. It’s a great reminder that our sin affects others, not just us. Live in such a way that you please God and Him only; then you will experience true victory in life. — BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM I Sam 13-14 Jud 1-2

FRIDAY “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.” Matthew 26:34-35

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Remembering What Matters

Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing was one of the most dominant centers in college basketball from 1982-1985, but regrettably more people remember the failures of Georgetown instead of its three NCAA Championship game appearances (1982, 1984, 1985) and the 1984 title. In the first title shot, in 1982, after little-known freshman Michael Jordan put North Carolina ahead with a jumper, Georgetown’s Fred Brown threw an errant pass to North Carolina’s James Worthy and the Hoya’s title hopes ended. After beating a Houston team led by Hakeem Olajuwon for the 1984 title, Georgetown (ranked No. 1 in the nation) was shocked in the 1985 championship game when unranked Villanova shot a record 78.6 percent from the field to deny the Hoyas back-toback titles. Like Georgetown’s failures, most people remember Peter’s failures more often than they remember his dying devotion to Christ. After Christ predicted that Peter would deny Him three times, Peter did just that. But Peter was also forgiven by Christ (as we see in John 21) and would later be crucified, but he asked to be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy to be killed in the same way as Christ had been crucified. Our last acts are what people will remember, too. So if you have made mistakes in your Christian walk, even late in life you can still live a life pleasing to God. — BRETT HONEYCUTT, SPORTS SPECTRUM

I Sam 15-17

Jud 3-5

WEEKENDER “reject every kind of evil.” I Thessalonians 5:22

Going Long

Read I Thessalonians 5:22 and meditate on the temptations you need to reject. Think about areas of sin you need to repent of and rid yourself of. I Sam 18-20

Jud 6-7

I Sam 21-24

Jud 8-9

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BY STEPHEN COPELAND

hat summer, John Morris would sit in church every Sunday and feel his eyes well up. His wife would look at him, concerned. “It’s okay,” he’d say. Then she would hold his hand. But he wasn’t okay. How could he be? How can you be okay when a player kills—kills— another player? When the town you’ve lived in for 25 years—Waco, Texas—is a media circus, the center of one of the most catastrophic scandals in college basketball history? When the school you love—your employer for the last eight years—is like an exploding building, collapsing in slow motion for the entire nation to see?


Wichita Eagle / Getty Images

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The summer of 2003 probably feels like an eternal scar to Baylor University—an unforgiveable, unforgettable sin. It can’t be looked over. It defines them. Few stories about Baylor—even now, almost 10 years later—can be written without mentioning one of the most tragic scandals in college basketball, a scandal that resulted in a murder, numerous NCAA violations, and one of the severest penalties in NCAA basketball history. This is another one of those stories; and yet, it’s different. Baylor’s downfall is deeper than decisions. It’s deeper than consequences. It’s deeper than money and numbers and ethics, as the media has already widely reported. Everything unraveled the way it did because of a void, a void that made a laughingstock of an institution and a mockery of its religion.

If there was a “Mr. Baylor,” it’d undoubtedly be broadcaster John Morris, the “Voice of the Baylor Bears.” Waco is Morris’ home, and Baylor, the largest Baptist University in the world, is his passion. Morris graduated from Baylor in 1980, and has lived in Waco, Texas, for the last 35 years. He worked at a Waco television station for 15 years after graduation and has been at Baylor for the last 15. Like a marriage, his relationship with the university has survived because of his inseparable love for the institution. His passion for Baylor isn’t circumstantial, swayed by highs and lows, winning and losing. If that were the case, he would have left a long time ago. Morris, who started working for Baylor in 1995, remembers when Dave Bliss accepted the basketball head-coaching job in 1999. “When I heard he was interested in the Baylor job, I was like, ‘Wow, we can get Coach Bliss at Baylor?’” Morris recalls. “It was a big deal. He had a really good track record.” Bliss’ coaching career before Baylor could be explained in his name: blissful. He got his start as an assistant at Army and Indiana under Bob Knight where he helped recruit the 1976 Indiana Hoosier team that went undefeated, then accepted his first head-coaching job at the University of Oklahoma before coaching Southern Methodist University for eight years, where he led them to three NCAA tournament appearances and the program’s first Southwest Conference regular-season title in 21 years. After SMU, he led New Mexico to 20 or more wins in 10 of his 11 seasons, including seven NCAA tournament berths. “He was one of the big-name coaches in college basketball,” Morris continues. “When we hired him, I thought it was a really big, good, hire. I thought it made a statement that Baylor was serious about basketball.” Bliss was hired in 1999 to resurrect Baylor’s basketball program, a program that hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1988. To alumni, fans, and the school, Bliss was the best hire they could have made. If anyone was the man for the job, he was. The rebuilding process, however, was slower than Bliss expected, and a series of bad decisions all culminated in the summer of 2003, when everything shattered into a million pieces, like a bullet in a mirror. It was a bullet that triggered everything—the murder of one of Bliss’ players, Patrick Dennehy, by another player, Carlton Dotson, thus making Waco, Texas, the center of the sporting world. “More and more of the story was brought to life,” Morris says. “Pieces of the puzzle started falling into place, and it was wideeyed shock that actually went on at Baylor and in Waco…Patrick was a part of the family, and our hearts just broke when that happened.” After the murder on June 8 and the sentencing of Dotson on June 15, it was discovered in August that Bliss paid the tuitions of Den56

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nehy and another player, Corey Herring, a blatant NCAA violation. An investigation ensued, and Bliss took extreme measures to hide and lie about his improprieties. “It was just a summer of a dark cloud hanging over Baylor,” Morris says. “(Going to work), it was almost like, ‘Well, what’s going to happen today? What’s the story that will come out today?’ That’s a bad way to go to work. That’s not a good feeling at all.” It was also revealed in August there were recruiting violations and widespread drug abuse on the team, ignored by Bliss and his staff. Bliss would soon resign, damning his legacy and the reputation of the school. “It’s just sad, really sad for our school,” Morris continues. “We have so many good people there and so many good coaches. Baylor stands for something. Baylor is a faithbased university, and we are proud of that fact, and to have something like this happen, you know what’s coming. You are going to get a lot of arrows slung at you—why something like this happened at Baylor in comparison to another school that doesn’t profess to be a Christian university. It was just really sad for Baylor.”

“It was just a summer of a dark cloud hanging over Baylor...It’s just sad, really sad for our school.”

If the story stopped there, Dave Bliss is a heartless fool, Baylor basketball is a scandalous joke, and the principles Baylor advertises are a mere façade and devious hoax, like a pastor who has an affair, a priest who molests a child, or an usher who steals from the collection plate. If the story stopped there, Bliss is a fraud, and so is Baylor. Forget the fact Baylor is a Christian institution; what transpired in Waco was bad for any institution. But you can say what you want about Bliss, and you can say what you want about Baylor, and you can say what you want about religion. You can judgmentally scowl at Bliss and Baylor’s perceived hypocrisy, probably blinded by your own, or you can see the beauty of redemption, the beauty of someone like Peter (a follower of Jesus, by the way) denying Jesus three times, then willingly getting crucified upside down for the cause of Christianity. There’s beauty in transformation. “I think I felt just as Peter did when he denied Christ,” says Bliss, who, in a rare interview, transparently spoke to Sports Spectrum for more than an hour. “My actions were sour and they were arrogant and they denied Christ, and I felt badly about that.” Bliss, somewhat ironically, accepted the position at Baylor in 1999 because of what the institution stood for, because of its Christian values. “I chose to go to Baylor because I wanted to end my career coaching at a Christian school, and God created the largest Baptist institution in the world for me,” Bliss says. “When I went to Baylor, for whatever reason, I got off-centered.” While the Baylor scandal itself unraveled rather suddenly—all in the treacherous summer of 2003—the void that formed in Bliss’ heart was gradual, like termites in a cabin, eventually causing its collapse. “Charles Stanley talks about four aspects that cause you to sin: hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness,” Bliss says retrospectively. “The thing I really had a problem with was that I wanted it to be a good program so I was working harder than I ever worked. That got me away from my quiet time; it got me away from church. You

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Getty Images

would think that being at Baylor I would be closer. But that’s not how the devil works. All of a sudden, I started making a couple of decisions.” Bliss was tired—tired of putting in the hours, the effort, and getting no results. He wanted to win. He wanted to transform Baylor like he transformed Southern Methodist. He wanted to fix it. He wanted results. He was exhausted. “I don’t know if you know how I ended up paying the scholarships—I don’t know if that’s ever been told,” Bliss says. “The summer of 2002, I had three people who were going to summer school, and I was afraid they weren’t going to make it so I recruited some other guys as backups…Long story short, they made it, and now I had too many players. I kept the two I recruited in their place: Herring and Dennehy…Baylor cost so much as a private school, at the end of the year, they had an amount due, and I was backed into a corner,

“The aspect of impugning my faith, that was my lowest moment. Separation from God is real when you sin.”

Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images

W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

Mark Wilson/ Getty Images

and that’s when the integrity issue hit. I went and paid it myself because I knew it was wrong to ask someone else to help me. When you throw the murder in there, and it’s uncovered, and it’s played out, it just kept getting worse and worse. It’s really a shock when you are on ESPN and it’s not good… “You have to mature. And I wasn’t mature. I made decisions that were poor ones based on my immaturity and my humanness because I was arrogantly trying to elevate myself. I was trying to help my program and I just didn’t trust God. If I had trusted God and been patient, everything would have worked out…I

ABOVE: Former Baylor head coach Dave Bliss bows his head in prayer and silence during a memorial service for Patrick James Dennehy on Aug. 7, 2003. LEFT: Carlton Dotson walks with his attorney as he arrives at the Kent County district court house in Chestertown, Md. The former roommate of missing Baylor University basketball player Patrick Dennehy, was charged July 21, 2003, with murder. RIGHT: Bliss, who coached the New Mexico -PCPTCFGPSFBDDFQUJOHUIFIFBEDPBDIJOHQPTJUJPOBU#BZMPS ZFMMTGSPNUIFTJEFMJOFTEVSJOHUIFHBNFBHBJOTU the Washington Huskies.

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Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Jamie Squire / Getty Images

just made some terrible decisions, and I attribute that to the fact that I was tired and so immersed in trying to have a good program.” The weird thing about sin is that it’s usually the result of selfishness, yet in the process of satisfying yourself, you wound others in ways you never imagined. There’s really no denying it: Bliss wounded a lot of people at Baylor. And the fallout was catastrophic, the worst the college basketball world had ever seen. “I hurt a school I cared a great deal about,” Bliss says. “I violated my wife’s trust. I love my wife, and she has been a great partner through all this. But the aspect of impugning my faith, that was my lowest moment. Separation from God is real when you sin.” Bliss resigned from Baylor and entered the darkest five-year period of his life, entangled in his sin and guilt, dying inside. “I didn’t go in to ax-murder the Baylor program,” Bliss says. “I went in and just got off track.”

Baylor head basketball coach Scott Drew has led a revival of the men’s program.

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Scott Drew was more like disaster relief when he accepted the Baylor head-coaching position the summer of 2003, hired to clean up the remains of a shattered program from a scandal that hit like a hurricane— and then somehow rebuild it. After successfully leading Valparaiso to a regular season conference championship in his first year as head coach the year before, taking his father Homer Drew’s place, you could say Scott was borderline insane for moving his family to Waco, Texas, into the eye of a disaster—and to do it with such enthusiasm, an incomprehensible zeal that, according to Morris, very well may have been the rallying cry that made Baylor Nation believe again. “Any major decision, or any decision, you bring it to prayer and seek godly council,” Drew says of his decision to move to Waco. “I just felt really led to come here, and felt like it was where God wanted me, and haven’t felt Him moving me anywhere else,” he laughs cheerfully. But it was going to be a long, long road, especially coming from a stable Valparaiso program that reached the NCAA tournament six out of the previous seven years. Drew and his staff spent the first several weeks recruiting on cam-

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pus—on campus—and holding open tryouts to find, not only players, but starters—starters. This is a Big 12 program, remember, not a small-town high school, where coaches may try to fill their roster spots with non-athletes just so they can field a team. “We were recruiting on campus the first couple of weeks!” Drew laughs. He remembers their first open tryout, when an ungodly amount of students showed up, many of which he didn’t recognize on his “recruiting visits,” if that’s what you call them, to the Baylor Student Life Center. He was confused. Who were all these kids? “We asked them, ‘What year are you in school? What is your major?’” Drew tells the story. “Turns out, we found that a lot of these people just showed up from junior colleges (in the area) and didn’t think they had to be enrolled at Baylor,” he laughs again. “The early days, when you are in the Big 12, it’s hard to have walk-ons going up against McDonald’s All-Americans.” He can laugh at it now. And heck, he may have laughed then, too. Baylor basketball, after all, was nothing more than a joke.

You probably already know the redemption story of Baylor basketball—how, after recruiting at the Baylor Student Life Center the opening months, missing non-conference play their 2005-06 season (the first time the NCAA has imposed a half-season penalty), and racking up four straight losing seasons, they made the NCAA tournament in 2008 for the first time in 20 years. Or how they have advanced to the Elite Eight two out of the last three years. Or how they recently upset No. 8 Kentucky. What Drew has done with Baylor from a winning perspective is unbelievable—ridiculous, really—but it’s deeper than that. “I’m very pleased Baylor is doing well,” Bliss says. “I consider Scott (Drew) a very professional coach and good coach.” Just as Baylor and Bliss fell together, they also rose together. With Baylor, with Bliss, it was a heart issue. “Absolutely, (there was a spiritual void),” Bliss says. “I came there with my ducks in line.” And that’s the story you haven’t heard. Both Baylor and Bliss were missing something—something deep. “I’m not casting aspersion on anyone else, but it really was (a different culture then),” Morris says, referring to Baylor before Drew. “Coach Drew is so bold in his faith and the way he works it in everything he does with his team. It was a major change. It really was…I’ve never been around a coach and a coaching staff like Coach Drew and his staff who have God first in everything they do and every decision they make. The chapel he has with the team before every game—and it’s not just a chapel—it’s the atmosphere around that program. It’s really special. You appreciate that when you see how he is investing in those guys’ lives. It’s what we should do at Baylor. “ Both Baylor and Bliss took five years to recover, five years for Drew to get the program back on the winning trail and bury the past, and five years for Bliss to bury his. “When judged on a worldly view of things you look at it when you aren’t winning games, and it’s hard to find much satisfaction and appreciation for what you are doing,” Drew says. “But the first couple years we had a lot of people come to know Christ—managers and players—and relationships strengthened. Those successes were all more important than wins and losses…We always focused on the positives and the future, and we didn’t have a lot of days where we sat around and questioned things.” “I think about this every day—what I did,” says Bliss, who is now the athletic director at Allen Academy, a small, private high school in Bryan, Texas. “For five years I really tried to go around and tell everybody what a good guy I was. That’s what you do

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when you can’t forgive yourself. You try to change everybody’s mind about you. For five years, I was definitely in the wilderness. It’s the most arrogant thought you can possibly have is that you can’t forgive yourself. The two biggest things I needed were God’s forgiveness and His grace in my life.” Both Baylor and Bliss got back to the heart, the core of their existence. Drew’s slogan for the basketball program is “For His Glory.” “That’s something we pride ourselves on is the relationships we have with our players,” Drew says. “No cussing policy in practice. Begin practice with a prayer. End practice with a prayer. Chapel service the day of the game. Pray with opponents at half-court at the end of the game if they want to. Everything is Christ-based.” “I got back to the basics of reading my Bible,” Bliss says. “I would get up early and read my Bible and keep journals. I’ve kept seven journals. I would see aspects of Nebuchadnezzar and aspects of King David. If you don’t think there is a book about the fallenness of man, the Bible is full of it…I had done what I had done, and I accepted the consequences, but that’s not where my relationship with God was going to end.” There’s an obscure book in the Bible called Lamentations. The book is a reminder that titles don’t matter. Just because the Israelites are “God’s chosen people,” Jerusalem is God’s “Holy City,” and Baylor is a “faith-based institution,” doesn’t mean they can’t fall. It’s all about the heart. If it were about the title, then the godless Babylonians wouldn’t have set Jerusalem aflame, and Baylor wouldn’t have made a laughingstock of its values. Why? Because if it were about the title, then anything associated with God should never make God look stupid. But it’s deeper than that, deeper than a measly title, cheap façade or marketing ploy. Perhaps it’s a tragic tale. Perhaps. But the story doesn’t end the summer of 2003. And it doesn’t end the winter of 2012. The heart is as ongoing as its beating, a continuous tale of its pursuit. And just as it beats with life or stops at death, it either pursues or does not. “Second chances don’t come without repentance,” Bliss says. “I know I am the poster child for second chances. I don’t ask people to forgive me…But we need to slow down as people and get into our priorities, and the greatest priority is to understand your relationship with God.” The story of Baylor and Bliss and vices and voids is a complicated, messy account that poses a profound, simple question about the heart of every man. Is it beating?

“I think about this every day—what I did. For Ä]L`LHYZ0YLHSS`[YPLK to go around and tell everybody what a good guy I was. That’s what you do when you can’t forgive yourself. You try to change everybody’s mind about you.”

Stephen Copeland is a staff writer and columnist at Sports Spectrum magazine.

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Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

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FEARLESS UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA RUNNING BACK REX BURKHEAD LIVES LIKE HE PLAYS BY TIMOTHY LAUX

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n senior Rex Burkhead, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have another outstanding I-back—and because of Burkhead’s relationship with Jesus Christ, they have a lot more. His relationship with Christ has been reflected in his approach both to football and life. The more he has learned God can

be trusted, the more confident he grows in whatever he does. But Burkhead didn’t always have that outlook about faith, although he has always believed in God, and knew that faith in Him was helpful for life. “I didn’t know what it meant to have a relationship with Him in Jesus Christ,” says Burkhead, a powerful-looking, 5-foot-11, 210-pound running back who is projected to be one of the top running backs in the upcoming NFL Draft. When he attended a church retreat with friends during his sophomore year in high school, he received Christ as his Savior. Thus began the relationship. “Since then, it’s been a journey,” he says. He grew a little as a Christian during high school and noticed he was surrounded by new temptations. “Right there I knew I needed something else of strength to hold on to, and that was my relationship with Christ.” As he considered where to play college football, he realized that the culture at the University of Nebraska provided the

best opportunity for him to grow in his relationship with Christ. When he arrived at the school, Christian teammates introduced him to opportunities for growth. He began attending Bible study, which he says sparked an interest to learn more of what God has to offer, especially the teachings in His Word. What Burkhead was learning proved to be valuable, because he experienced highs and lows. He especially learned from the low of suffering a broken foot after five games in his freshman season, and he learned to maintain a positive attitude and trust in God. “No matter what, He’s got a plan for you,” Burkhead says. “He’s got your life mapped out. Just have faith in Him that He’s going to take care of you.” From the adversity, he also learned to make the most of his opportunities and glorify God in whatever he does. In the Holiday Bowl, Nebraska featured him in the Wildcat

TEAM JACK

erhaps the best-known P impact story of Rex Burkhead off the football field

has featured six-year-old Jack Hoffman. Jack, who has brain cancer, was given the opportunity to meet his favorite Husker when Burkhead was asked if he would like to meet Jack, show him around Husker football, and have lunch with him. That meeting took place in September 2011 before the Huskers played against Wyoming. Jack was paired with Burkhead in Nebraska’s lifeskills program. Burkhead wore a red wristband that read, “Team Jack-Pray” during the game. Burkhead had a stellar game that weekend in a road win. He wore that wristband the rest of the season. Many teammates and their parents wore one also. Burkhead and Jack’s friendship has gone simply beyond a day together and an autograph. “It was crazy seeing he had a smile on his face and he was having fun on the tour even though he knows he’s in a life-ordeath situation,” Burkhead says. The two have continued to keep in touch, with many people praying for Jack. Burkhead is inspired whenever he remembers, “no matter what I’m go through, it’s nothing compared to what he’s going through.” -Timothy Laux 62

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formation, where someone other than the quarterback takes the snap. He was productive, rushing for 89 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown as the Huskers routed Arizona, 33-0. He continued to grow more productive during the next two seasons. In 2010 he rushed for 100 yards or more in three games, finishing with 951 yards on 172 carries and seven touchdowns. He also caught 15 passes for 148 yards. The following season, in 2011, he rushed for 1,357 yards (the most by a running back at Nebraska since 1997) on 284 carries and 15 touchdowns, and also caught 21 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers earned him first-team All-Big Ten. This season, though, he has battled injuries. He sprained his left knee in the opener, a 49-20 win against Southern Mississippi, and then aggravated the injury two more times (against Northwestern and Ohio State). He missed eight games and left

early in three others, but he was able to play the last regular season game (a 13-7 victory against Iowa), the Big Ten Championship (a 70-31 loss to Wisconsin), and the Capital One Bowl game (against SEC runnerup Georgia). But Burkhead has increasingly endeared himself to others by running hard and decisively, and few can recall him fumbling more than three times in his career. Additionally, he is appreciated for his dedicated work ethic and his gracious, humble demeanor. Although he is not known for breakaway speed, “he’s like a wild animal when he has the ball in his arms and uses that offhand as a weapon,” Nebraska running backs coach Ron Brown says. “He plays the game with incredible enthusiasm, passion and with a fierce spirit.” Burkhead says he approaches each play with a “fearless” attitude and lets his talents and instincts take charge. His teammates and position coach have noticed

firsthand his passion for football, best illustrated by his work ethic and his leadership by example. “He’s gone above and beyond in terms of training, Brown says. “Anything that he can do to improve something in his game, he’s hungry to do it. He’s one of the most coachable guys I’ve ever seen.” Perhaps Burkhead has most impacted others for Christ with his attitude of humility and servanthood. “Whatever helps the team, whatever helps us win games is what I want to do,” he says. His versatility as an athlete certainly does not hurt. In addition to rushing he has made plays catching and throwing passes or executed a key block to create a big play. One of his most memorable plays was catching a short pass from Taylor Martinez in the comeback win over Ohio State in 2011. Martinez was being rushed and threw to Burkhead, who was able to evade the defender’s tackle with a little hop and then head to the end zone for the game-tying touchdown. FCA staff member Robbie Trent has seen how God has used Burkhead, an Academic All-American, as well. “Rex is a guy that really desires to be an ambassador of Christ and to correctly handle the Word of Truth,” Trent says. “He definitely is desiring to reflect Christ in everything he does.” Aaron Green, one of two talented sophomores, who trail Burkhead on the depth chart at I-back, sees Burkhead as a leader. “The best lesson I got from Rex is to go hard always, in all that I do,” he says. “Once you see him in the weight room and on practice, you know you got to go hard, because Rex brings it every day.” In addition to simply playing for the Huskers, Burkhead, is continuing their tradition of great I-backs such as Roger Craig, Mike Rozier, Calvin Jones, Ahman Green, Roy Helu, Jr., etc. “It’s a privilege”to have such a platform, Burkhead says. “I’ve appreciated Rex’s generosity with his time,” Trent says. “He has been more than generous,” to share his testimony, the Gospel with people in Nebraska. Says Brown: “It’s an honor to have him in my room every day, to coach him, and he rubs off on everybody, including me.” Timothy Laux is a freelance writer who lives in Nebraska.

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here’s a mother driving her white Ford Thunderbird down a California freeway. It’s 1994 and it’s lunch hour. It’s Orange County and it’s sunny. She’s on her way to Costco to buy groceries for her family, just a mile from her exit, when she realizes something. But it’s too late. A car haphazardly cuts her off, causing her to swerve and clip the end of another car. Her Thunderbird does a 180, shooting her backwards across six lanes of traffic. It slams into the guardrail and starts violently flipping, end over end, over and over, like a racecar, like it’s possessed, just missing the cement bridge support of the overpass by inches. What she realized was that her one-year-old’s car seat hadn’t been buckled in. She has no idea why. It’s always buckled in. But somehow, she forgot. Inside, the one-year-old boy’s frail, little body, while harnessed inside of his baby seat, bounces around like a pinball, molested by gravity. Skull meets glass. Skin meets metal. Grab a baby by his feet, hold him upside down, and shake him barbarically—that’s what happened. Stick a baby on a rollercoaster, his neck snapping back and forth, his soft skull smashing into everything around him—that’s what happened. Throw a rag doll in a wood chipper—that’s what happened. Or so you would think.

Doubting is easier than believing. It’s almost cliché to doubt, isn’t it? It’s easier to doubt people than to believe in people. It’s easier to doubt God than to believe in Him. Doubting is natural. Believing takes faith. Doubting is easy. Believing is hard. Believing is also beautiful. The way hockey star Rocco Grimaldi believes is beautiful. It’s hard to comprehend that Grimaldi—a redshirt freshman at the University of North Dakota who was drafted in 2011 by the NHL’s Florida Panthers—is only a 19-year-old college kid. He’s wise enough to mentor coaches. He quotes the Bible like most quote Anchorman or Caddyshack. Interview him and you’ll get a sermon. He told his mother in third grade that he wanted to read the entire Bible. He wants to be a pastor. He’s Tim Tebow on skates. And yet, like Tebow, who tells the media about his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” more than he’s “happy to be a Jet,” there’s something very likeable about Rocco Grimaldi. Like Tebow, he’s real. He’s more than words. He’s action. He’s bold. Some say it’s why he fell to the second round of the NHL Draft after being predicted as high as eighth in the first round. Teams were afraid of his boldness. And, though he’s bold, evidenced by his outwardly Christian tweets that have gotten him crucified by the media in the past, he’s not like some of the self-righteous, better-than-you Christians you see on CNN protesting gay parades. “It really doesn’t surprise me, to be honest, just how this world is,” Grimaldi says about falling in the draft. “Religious Christians put the real Christians under the bus so I blame them for that. Thinking that we’re just going to be preaching and condemning people. We’re not called to condemn. That’s not our job. If Christ didn’t condemn us, why would we condemn others? It just doesn’t make sense.” Jesus, he says, came down hard on the “religious” people. He ate with tax collectors and talked to prostitutes. He loved sinners.

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m trying to get to the core of that,â&#x20AC;? Grimaldi says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll go up to Christians and say, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Why did God give us the Bible if you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t read it? Why do you say this and that and not live it out?â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Rocco Grimaldi, as bold as they come. His height (5 foot, 6 inches) doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stop him on the ice, and his age doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stop him from speaking what he believesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;even after a tumultuous year he calls a â&#x20AC;&#x153;make-it-or-break-it-pointâ&#x20AC;? in his life.

Cameras started to zoom in on Rocco Grimaldi. Tears began building in his eyesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;angry tears, sad tears, all in one. He stood up, all eyes on him, and made a beeline out of the arena before anyone could say anything to him. Grimaldi entered the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft rather confidently, with every reason to believe heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be selected in front of his 30 family members and friends in attendance at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. He was a projected mid to late-first round draft pick, and he talked to several teams the week leading up to the Draft who said theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d take him, trade up for him, whatever it took. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what was most maddening for Grimaldi. In a sense, he felt betrayed. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I was thinking, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Wow, I thought I knew you,â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? he says. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to say why Grimaldi fell. Some say itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s because heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a Jesus freak. Others say itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s because of his size. Like Tebow, heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s

been doubted his entire career. Like Tebow, all they see is his unorthodoxy, not his stats. Grimaldiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rĂŠsumĂŠ is top-notch. Before kicking off his collegiate career at the University of North Dakota (players can be drafted years before playing in the NHL), he totaled 39 goals, 34 assists, and 73 points in 58 games for the U.S. National Development Team (USNTDP), leading his team in all three categories of competition. He also helped the United States Under-18 Team earn back-to-back gold medals at the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World U18 Championship in Germany and the 2010 IIHF World U18 Championship in Minsk, Belarus, where he tied for the team lead in points, as an under-aged player. Grimaldi is like a little demon on the ice: skilled, relentless, living inside the minds of his opponents and corrupting their confidence by instilling fear. His first goal with North Dakota, he gained possession on a breakaway, then made a shifty move that caused a Minnesota defender to clumsily trip over his skates and crash into the ice. At every level, Grimaldi takes the doubts, chews them up, then spits them back in the face of his doubters. Hockey writer and broadcaster Chris Peters said this of Grimaldi as Draft Day approached: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Having been around Grimaldi at different periods of time and interviewing him a bunch over the past two years, the kid has that â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;it factor.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Undaunted by his height, or lack thereof, and unflinching in his belief that he will make it to

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the NHL one day gives me enough confidence to say he should be an early-to-mid first-rounder.” But it wouldn’t be. And Grimaldi ate dinner with his family and friends that evening in silence, confused and drained. Come Day 2, there was hope in the back of his mind he would be picked fifth (35th overall) by the Detroit Redwings, the kings of the NHL. But again, it wouldn’t be. The Florida Panthers picked Grimaldi 33rd overall. Florida was the last team he expected. He wasn’t familiar with their organization. He didn’t know their management. He says he only spoke to them one time leading up to the draft. And they certainly weren’t the Redwings, who have earned 11 Stanley Cups, the most of any franchise based in the United States. The Panthers had no Stanley Cups and hadn’t made the playoffs the last decade. “When I got drafted, I was like, ‘This is not what I had planned,’” says Grimaldi, who believes God is in control of every stage of his life. “I’d play for this team or this team, and God gave me this team? But I hugged my family, put a smile on my face, and took the jersey.” Walking toward the stage, Grimaldi says he heard a small, still voice in his head, challenging his doubt. Do you trust Me? it said. Do you trust Me? Grimaldi says his attitude changed. He went upstairs and started shaking hands with management. One guy had four Stanley Cups. Another guy had six. Another guy shook his hand and said he respected Grimaldi for his faith. Then there was general manager Dave Tallon, who helped rebuild the Chicago Blackhawks from 2005-2009, the culmination of a Stanley Cup title in 2010. He was doing the same thing with Florida, leading the Panthers to their first playoff appearance in 10 years during Grimaldi’s first season at North Dakota. “I was like, ‘Wow, God knew what he was doing,’” Grimaldi says. “God basically goes, ‘Who are you to tell Me what I am doing?’” Perhaps, most importantly, Tallon and Panther management allow

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Grimaldi to be himself—his bold, outspoken self. Four months after Grimaldi was drafted, he posted a series of inyour-face tweets asking women to dress modestly and men to stop objectifying women. The media clung to his tweets and tore Grimaldi to shreds. That day, he got a call from Panthers management regarding the tweets. Grimaldi was scared his future career and relationship with the Panthers was on the chopping block. But when management told Tallon about the tweets, Grimaldi says that Tallon simply responded, “Oh, it’s just Rocco. Let him say whatever he wants. He’s just living out his faith.” “He always backed me up and respected me for my faith,” Grimaldi says. “While all those other teams didn’t pick me because of my faith, Florida picked me possibly because of my faith.” Then there was the time Grimaldi went to Panther development camp, and the head of player development asked Grimaldi to pray before a meal in front of 40-some players and 10-plus coaches. “It’s crazy how He takes your plans, and your plans get balled up in a piece of paper and tossed in the trash,” Grimaldi says. “But His plan is better anyway.” The future looked promising for Rocco Grimaldi. He was drafted— by a team he had grown to love, a team that appreciated who he was—and he was entering his freshman year at the University of North Dakota with an opportunity to continue his dominance and possibly be in the NHL after a year of college. He was close to his dream.

Rocco Grimaldi was cautiously making his way down the stairs in a movie theater, the day after having surgery on his right knee. His mother was in front of him stepping backwards down the stairs to try to help steady him as he descended. His crutch caught. He tripped down two steps. Then he broke his

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fall by planting on his right leg, the operative leg he couldn’t put pressure on. Pain exploded in his kneecap like a needle slowly going into your eye. He screamed. Grimaldi got to the bottom of the stairs, exasperated, and lay on a bench inside the theater. “Buddy, God didn’t bring us this far to leave us now,” his mother told him. He looked terrible. “I have to go to the bathroom,” she said—not because she had to go to the bathroom, but because she didn’t want to cry in front of him. She prayed in the bathroom and returned. Grimaldi got back up, but only to stumble again and fall on the same leg. Pain exploded again. Defeated, he broke down and cried. “Why is this happening to me?” he asked his mother. “I don’t understand it,” his mother consoled, “but God did not bring us this far to leave you now,” she told him again. Right when things had started to look up—after the frustration of Day 1 of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, then the elation of realizing Florida was a perfect fit, then the excitement of beginning his college career, just one step away from attaining his dream of playing in the NHL—Grimaldi took a puck to the knee in his first practice at the University of North Dakota. Doesn’t sound like a big deal. It’s just a puck to the knee. But it is a big deal whenever you have a bipartite patella, meaning the pieces of the kneecap have yet to fuse together. Only two percent of the population have it, and Grimaldi is one of them. “I hate it when people say, ‘God did this to make you humble,’” Grimaldi says. “No, God did not put this on me at all. This happened because life is life and He is still good in the mix of it; and He is going to turn this into something good, and He already is.” From mid-September through mid-November of 2011, Grimaldi tried to play through the pain while undergoing physical therapy, but his skill on the ice wasn’t the same. His doctor then had him rest the knee with no activity from mid-November through the first week of January. “When I played it was hard for me to skate,” Grimaldi says. “It hurt so bad. It just wasn’t me. That would’ve hurt the team more than it would’ve helped.” In January of 2012, midway through the Fighting Sioux’s season, Grimaldi decided it’d be best to get surgery and redshirt, the most difficult hockey decision he’s had to make that triggered the most trying time of his hockey career. The thought entered his mind: “I could trust You in the past, but this is bigger than anything I have ever gone through,” he says. “But we are supposed to overcome the devil by the blood of the Lamb, and He already shed that blood. And the other thing we are supposed to overcome the devil by is the word of our testimony. And what is our testimony? It’s God showing Himself through the trials and tests we have already been through.” When doubt crept into his mind—like a spy trying to infiltrate enemy lines—Grimaldi warded it off by writing his testimony. He took the doubt and he drowned it. “One reason (I started writing my testimony) is because I needed to look back at past trials I got through because of Him—just to remind myself of Him, just to remind myself of His faithfulness, and that because of His faithfulness in those times, He’ll be faithful in

these as well,” Grimaldi says. “He’s always faithful.” Right from the beginning.

There’s a father who receives a phone call, one of those calls that change everything: His wife and infant son had crashed on the freeway. Then, the father sees something, like a vision. He sees a car flipping down the freeway. He sees a baby inside. His little body is bouncing around like a pinball, like he’s not buckled in, like the vision is a split-second away from becoming a graphic bloodbath and nightmare. Then the vision gets weirder. On the outside of the car, the father sees strong angels, like muscle-bound power lifters—mighty, celestial mysteries, pressing the car and holding it together and keeping it from collapsing. On the inside of the car, the father sees “angels like fluffy pillows,” the baby safely bouncing off them, as if in a foam pit. Then the vision ends. The mother, meanwhile, is sitting 50 feet from her crashed car, resting on its driver’s side. How she is sitting 50 feet away from her car, she doesn’t know. It’s spooky, like a scene straight out of a horror film. She isn’t bleeding. She doesn’t have a scratch. It’s almost as if she died and her soul has already left her body, and that’s what she is seeing—a tipped-over car in front of her with the remains of herself and her son inside. But she’s alive. Or she at least thinks she is. She sprints toward the car. She’s a police officer and an athlete. So is her husband. The baby inside has a chance of growing up to be quite a sportsman. Before the crash, at least. She climbs onto the car and looks into it. She reaches inside and cuts her arm on glass. Blood. Life. Susie Grimaldi sees her son, Rocco, inside. He’s still in his carrier which is resting perfectly face up on the driver’s door. His eyes are open. And he’s alive. Unharmed. Undaunted. Not even crying. He looks up at his mother with his pacifier in his mouth. He smiles. He smiles. It’s easier to doubt God than to believe in Him. Doubting is natural. Believing takes faith. Doubting is easy. Believing is hard. This, however, would be an exception—because if angels don’t exist, then neither does velocity and collision. If this doesn’t prove supernatural existence, then it disproves nature. Rocco Grimaldi drowns doubt with the beauty of belief. There’s a helicopter flying above, its blades echoing the seriousness of the crash. The mother is placed on a stretcher. A fireman is holding the baby. The baby smiles and sucks his pacifier. And everyone wonders how.

Grimaldi got back up, but only to stumble again and fall on the same leg. Pain exploded again. Defeated, he broke down and cried. “Why is this happening to me?” he asked his mother. “I don’t understand it,” his mother consoled, “but God did not bring us this far to leave you now.”

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Stephen Copeland is a staff writer and columnist at Sports Spectrum magazine.

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TWO PEOPLE MORE THAN 3,000 MILES AWAY WERE BROUGHT TOGETHER BECAUSE OF A HEART TO REACH UGANDA THROUGH SPORTS BY BRETT HONEYCUTT


-JCFSUZ 6OJWFSTJUZmFME hockey coach Jodi Murphy (above), and -JCFSUZmFME hockey player Natalie Barr (left and far left), were brought together because of their love of the Ugandan QFPQMFBOEmFME hockey.

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Photos courtesy of Liberty Athletics Department

odi Murphy was recruiting another player when she found out about Natalie Barr. That’s where she found out that her life intersected with Barr’s. They knew they had a passion for field hockey, but both also had a passion for the people of Uganda, and a passion for helping bring hope and true life to Uganda through sports. The beginnings of that connection, though, began two years prior, in the spring of 2010, when Liberty University announced that it was starting a women’s field hockey program. “I had already been praying about the next steps for me in terms of coaching,” Murphy says. “I had been at the University of RichW E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

mond, then for six years, and I had been kind of itching to do something else. I knew right away that was an opportunity that the Lord had opened a door, so I sought that out.” She interviewed and was given the job. Then came the process of recruiting players. She began looking for athletes who fit what Liberty stands for: Christians who want to play athletics at the NCAA Division I level, the highest in college. After contacting a former coaching colleague from Northern Ireland, he gave Murphy a few names of potential players, one of whom was a good friend of Barr. “I asked her if she knew someone who would want to come with her to make the transition a little bit lighter from the UK to the states, and at that point is when she began talking about Natalie,” SPORTS SPECTRUM

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severely deteriorating after returning from Uganda. That became the charity, Charleneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Project. When Charlene passed away, the family continued the charity and raised enough money to build the first school, Hidden Treasure, which opened in 2011. They have been back to conduct field hockey camps and give away donated equipment to the children. For Murphy, seeing the desperation of the people was also key in getting involved. Many families have been slaughtered by a Ugandan named Joseph Kony, and their orphaned children made to fight for Kony. â&#x20AC;&#x153;When I first went, I was going with that burden on my heart just to get an understanding for what those people were going through, as Natalie said, to bring some fun lightheartedness, some activities to a people who had been suffering,â&#x20AC;? Murphy says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Many kids who had lost parents, tons and tons of orphans that needed that love and attention. Like her when I got there, they filled me up so much and it was their joyâ&#x20AC;Ś that really affected my heart. And I just came back, not with just a desire to return, but to return with something I loved and

-JCFSUZ6OJWFSTJUZmFMEIPDLFZDPBDI+PEJ.VSQIZEVSJOHPOFPGIFSWJTJUTUP6HBOEB

Murphy says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I mentioned to the girl one of the initiatives that I have is to continue to work with my non-profit out in Uganda, to do camps and clinics. â&#x20AC;&#x153;She stopped there in the conversation, and said, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;O my gosh, I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t believe that. This family, the Barrs, they, too, have a non-profit in Uganda and they are looking to do more work, hockey-related, in the schools and in the capitol city.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; The Lord, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just amazing how He scripted the story. No one else could write it aside from Him.â&#x20AC;? Murphy and Barr both had non-profits, Charleneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Project (www.Charlenesproject. org) and Pathfinder Hockey (www.pathfinderhockey.org), which helped Barrâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interest tremendously. 72

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Seeing the Need

Both first visited Uganda in 2008, before they knew each other. And both came away being impacted so much that they had to act. Barr visited Uganda with her family, including her sister Charlene, who was born with cystic fibrosis and couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t compete in sports growing up. After seeing that the people suffered from poor health conditions and poor education, and noticing that the children would not have survived her sickness had they been born with it, Charlene decided to focus her time raising money to build a school in Uganda â&#x20AC;&#x201C; despite her health


something the kids could latch onto…the Lord just really made a way for us to all use field hockey as a means to share and spread the gospel, but more than anything for them to pour into our lives and help us to see just how fortunate we are here in the states.”

Connecting at Liberty

That’s where the connection made sense. “(Murphy) told me that it was not only the shared love for God and field hockey that has brought us together, but also our love for Uganda,” Barr, a native of Northern Ireland, told Dwayne Groff, a graduate assistant in the Liberty University Athletics Communications Office. “When I first heard about coming to America to play field hockey, I wasn’t really interested in it because I knew that I wanted to go to Uganda and teach. It was Coach Murphy’s link with Uganda that really got me interested in coming here.” Once she visited Liberty, she was hooked. “I came on a special visit (during Easter 6HBOEBODIJMESFOIPMEVQmFMEIPDLFZTUJDLT that were donated through a program to promote the sport in Uganda.

of 2012) and I really fell in love with Liberty,” says Barr. But their interest didn’t stop with Uganda. Making Liberty a competitive program, even in the Flames’ second year of existence, was also a goal. This past season, Liberty finished 16-6 and won the NorPac Field Hockey Conference’s East Division title before making it to the title game against West Division winner Stanford. Though the Flames lost 3-0, finishing the season with a winning record and reaching the championship game were monumental achievements for such a young program. Barr, a freshman midfielder, was also the East Division’s Offensive Player of the Year after finishing with 16 goals, and eight assists while ending up second in the NorPac in points per game (2.0) and third in goals per game (0.8). Both were 18th best in the country and her 16 goals were best in the nation by a freshman. “God gives us all different talents, and different tasks,” Barr says. “We always want to win, but at the end of the day it’s a sport and it’s a game and there’s more

important things in life, and I think that trying to use the talents and the gifts that God’s given you to give all the glory back, that’s really the way I live. After every game, we always pray and try to give the glory back to God to show that there is more to life than just the game.” Indeed, there really is. Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine.

Want to help outreaches in Uganda? To help support Charlene’s Project or Pathfinder Hockey, go to www.Charlenesproject.org or www.pathfinderhockey.org


“I remember particularly well when in September of 1974, just a few weeks after 0OHK[HRLUVMÄJL Betty had her bout with cancer. It was during that time that we came to a much deeper understanding of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. ”

Gerald Ford, University of Michigan football star, 38th U.S. President


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ome Christians are familiar with the faith of our nation’s Founding Fathers like Samuel Adams, Benjamin Rush and John Jay. They weren’t afraid to express their faith, like when Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and Father of the American Revolution, wrote this while Governor of Massachusetts in a Proclamation of a Day of Fast on March 20, 1797: “That wars may cease in all the earth, and that the confusions that are and have been among nations may be overruled by promoting and speedily bringing on that holy and happy period when the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and all people everywhere willingly bow to the sceptre of Him who is Prince of Peace.” Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and ratifier of the U.S. Constitution, was equally as bold. In the 1798 publication of Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical, he said this: “Christianity is the only true and perfect religion, and that in proportion as mankind adopts its principles and obeys its precepts, they will be wise and happy…I know there is an objection among many people to teaching children doctrines of any kind, because they are liable to be controverted. But let us not be wiser than our Maker. If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into all the world would have been unnecessary. The perfect morality of the gospel rests upon the doctrine which, though often controverted has never been refuted: I mean the vicarious life and death of the Son of God.” Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and President of the American Bible Society, felt a need to tell people about Christ and was quoted as saying this on page 379 in the book, In God We Trust – The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers: “By conveying the Bible to people thus circumstanced, we certainly do them a most interesting kindness. We thereby enable them to learn that man was originally created and placed in a state of happiness, but, becoming disobedient, was subjected to the degradation and evils which he and his posterity have since experienced. The Bible will also inform them that our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer, in whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; that this Redeemer has made atonement ‘for the sins of the whole world,’ and thereby reconciling the Divine justice with the Divine mercy has opened a way for our redemption and salvation; and that these inestimable benefits are of the free gift and grace of God, not of our deserving, nor in our power to deserve.” But what about today’s 20th and 21st politicians? Do they measure up? Are they merely trying to win your vote by inserting religious jargon or voting for causes that Christians will support, or are they truly Christians who MICHAEL REGAN / GETTY IMAGES

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desire others to know Christ? We likely won’t know completely until we get to heaven because as I Kings 8:39 tells us, only God knows the hearts of all men. What we do know, though, is that there have been men, recently, who were bold in what they said concerning their relationship with Christ, men who were also once incredible athletes. So with the inauguration this month of the President of the United States and the swearing in of Congressional members in the House and Senate, institutions set up by our Founding Fathers, Sports Spectrum takes a look at six athletes turned politicians who showed a deep faith in Christ.

JIM RYUN

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People know that Gerald Ford was the 38th U.S. President, who served from 1974-77, that he took over for embattled U.S. President Richard Nixon and that Ford was the only person to serve as U.S. President and Vice President without being elected. But most probably don’t know that Ford was also a star football player at the University of Michigan, helping the Wolverines to undefeated seasons and national titles in 1932 and 1933. His senior year in 1934, he also played in the East-West All-Star game and with the Collegiate AllStars in an exhibition against the Chicago Bears. His jersey, No. 48, was retired in 1994. He also had a deep faith in Christ. In 1977, Ford expressed this during a commencement address at his son’s graduation from seminary. “If the experience of the presidency itself led me to a greater reliance upon God, a greater appreciation of my religion, so did some of the critical events of those two and a half years in the White House. I remember particularly well when in September of 1974, just a few weeks after I had taken office, Betty had her bout with cancer. It was during that time that we came to a much deeper understanding of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. At a time when human weakness and human frailty was such a real part of our lives, we were able to see clearly for the first time what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote that Christ’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Having been through that experience, we found that we were better able to give comfort and hope to others in their time of pain. “The White House—those years—also taught us a dramatic lesson in the mortality of man. Twice I escaped an assassin’s 76

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University of Kansas track star (1966-1969) Three-time U.S. Olympian (1964, 1968, 1972) U.S. House of Representatives (1996-2007)

bullet, and twice I came to understand in vivid terms another message of Paul, that we should trust not in ourselves but in God, who delivered us from death and preserves us still.”

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Jim Ryun is remembered most by track and field enthusiasts for becoming the first high school runner to break four minutes in the mile in 1964 (only five have ever accomplished this feat), for making the Olympic team as a high school junior in 1964, and two more Olympic teams after that (1968, 1972), for holding the world record in the mile from 1966-1975 (the last American to do so), and for gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated seven times, including being named Sportsman of the Year in 1966 when he set world records in the mile and half mile. He also won five NCAA individual titles and a team title (1969) at Kansas, set world records in five other events and won

a silver medal in the 1,500 meters at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. In between his retirement from the sport in 1974 and his induction into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1980, he and his wife, Anne, became Christians through the witness of friends. “I wanted the peace that only comes through Jesus Christ,” he said. He later served Kansas’ Second district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1996-2007.

“I wanted the peace that only comes through Jesus Christ...Because of what happened in my life, identify with people. I can tell them that no disappointment is so big that God can’t heal it.” Despite his athletic success, many on the outside of the sport only remember him for never winning a gold medal (especially in 1968 when he was favored) and for his being tripped up in the 1972 Olympics and failing to qualify for the final. He once asked a reporter for Sports TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 1-866-821-2971


STEVE LARGENT

Spectrum, “How many gold medalists do you know? Maybe one. Probably none. But how many people do you know who have had some sort of disappointment in their lives? How many people do you know who have tried and not won? Because of what happened in my life, I identify with people. I can tell them that no disappointment is so big that God can’t heal it.”

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University of Tulsa receiver (1972-1975) NFL’s Seattle Seahawks (1976-1989) U.S. House of Representatives (1994-2002)

J.C. WATTS

Oklahoma University quarterback (1977-1980) Canadian Football League (1981-1986) Oklahoma Corporation Commission (1990-1995) U.S. House of Representatives (1995-2003)

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In 1976, Steve Largent was a fourth-round pick in the NFL Draft (117th overall) after a stellar All-American career as a receiver at Tulsa. He spent the next 14 years with the Seattle Seahawks, retiring with eight All-Pro selections and the holder of all major NFL receiving records, including most career receptions (819), most career receiving yards (13,089), and most career touchdown catches (100). In 1995, he received the ultimate football honor by being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One instance during the 1982 NFL strike showed where Largent stood as a Christian. Along with quarterback Jim Zorn, another Christian, Largent ended his participation in the strike referring to Matthew 5:36-37, and saying, “your word is your bond.” “My purpose in playing is to represent Christ,” Largent once told Sports Spectrum. “And my motivation is to be the very best I can be. That involves preparing myself physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally to be a great football player.” He used that same focus in a political career that spanned from 1994 until 2002, serving Oklahoma’s First district in the U.S. House of Representatives. “My vision for the future really begins by glancing to our past, our heritage,” Largent told Sports Spectrum when he was first elected. “Our country was founded on biblical principles. Let’s return to those principles: a strong work ethic, self-responsibility, personal accountability in strong families, and a belief in the sovereignty of the Lord. What I’m talking about is a spiritual revival, not necessarily a legislative revival. We can make all sorts of laws here in Washington, but we can’t legislate a person’s heart.” In 2004, Largent and J.C. Watts were named two of the top 10 athletes who became politicians by CBC Sports Online of Canada

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After J.C. Watts led the University of Oklahoma to back-to-back Big Eight Championships and Orange Bowl victories in the SPORTS SPECTRUM

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1979 and 1980 seasons, he went to the Canadian Football League where he helped the Ottawa Rough Riders to the 1981 Grey Cup title game. After playing for Ottawa from 1981-1985, he joined the Toronto Argonauts for one season before retiring in 1986. He has been a youth minister and was also ordained as a Baptist minister in 1993 before serving a six-year term with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (1990-1995) and eight years with the U.S. House of Representatives (1995-2003) for Oklahoma’s Fourth district. In 1994, when he was running for office, he told voters, “Friends, we live in the greatest land on the face of this earth. People fight to get to America, the land of opportunity. The key to sustaining the magic of America is family, community, morality, responsibility, strong education, and bringing God back into the mainstream of things.” During his early days in the U.S. House of Representatives, he told Sports Spectrum that the Bible is “the only consistent social policy we’ve had for the past 2,000 years. We cannot continue to slap God in the face and totally ignore the Word of God and remain a great country.” His background as an elite athlete prepared him for politics. “My athletic experience was a very good

teacher,” he told Sports Spectrum then. “It taught me endurance, patience, delayed gratification. And being a quarterback teaches you to have a tough skin. Regardless of what people are saying, if you stay focused, things will work out. Athletics teaches you that you can lose without being a loser. When you lose the game, the people are booing, and Satan says, ‘Where is your God?’ My faith says, ‘Lord, I don’t know what You’re trying to teach me, but I trust Your heart.’”

in a short stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers (1987-88) and then with the Phoenix

“There’s a verse in the Bible that tells us there will be many who go down the road that’s wide and leads to destruction...But the narrow road, the road of righteousness, very few people are going to choose that one. That’s the different road.”

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After Kevin Johnson ended his college career at Cal as the school’s all-time leader in assists, steals and scoring (eventually becoming the first men’s basketball player to have his jersey, No. 11, retired), he embarked on a memorable NBA career after being drafted in the first round, first

KEVIN JOHNSON

University of California basketball (1983-1987) NBA player (1987-1998, 2000) Mayor of Sacramento (2008-present)

Suns (1988-1998, 2000). During his career, he was named an NBA All-Star three times, and played with the 1994 NBA Dream Team that won the World Championship. Along with having his No. 7 jersey retired by Phoenix, he joined an elite group in several categories. He was one of only three NBA players (along with legends Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson) to average at least 20 points and 12 assists in a season, and one of only three (along with Magic and the legendary Oscar Robertson) to average at least 20 points and 20 assists per game for three straight years. His guide, since accepting Christ as a senior at Sacramento High School, has been the Bible. “There’s a verse in the Bible that tells us there will be many who go down the road that’s wide and leads to destruction,” Johnson told Sports Spectrum in the middle of his NBA career. “It’s the common route and where most people go. But the narrow road, the road of righteousness, very few people are going to choose that one. That’s the different road.” Part of that different road wasn’t just his faith, but it was focusing his energy from a professional athlete to a venture into politics. That road began in 2008 when he was elected as mayor of Sacramento. He was re-elected to a second term on June 5, 2012. “If you walk in the right direction, if you put your feet on solid ground and focus on Christ, then your life will be very solid and fulfilling.”

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Heath Shuler once told Sports Spectrum, “There is nothing in life more important

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than the Lord and His Word.â&#x20AC;? That would be something Shuler would rely on a lot as he made his decisions on where to go to college, when to enter the NFL Draft and when he decided to venture into politics. Before being taken third overall in the NFL Draftâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first round by the Washington Redskins, Shuler had made a quick name for himself in the college football world. When Tennessee was still a power in the SEC, Shuler (who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1993) was busy passing his way into the schoolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s record books. He left school holding nearly every passing record in history, most of which were later eclipsed by future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. Shulerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s NFL career was shortlived, though. He was with Washington from 1994 to 1996, the New Orleans Saints in 1997 and with the Oakland Raiders during camp in 1998 before succumbing to a second foot injury that ended his career. â&#x20AC;&#x153;At that point you go through some ups and downs,â&#x20AC;? Shuler told Sports Spectrum in 2011 as he recalled what he was going through during that time. â&#x20AC;&#x153;You wonder, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Why did this happen to me?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; But when you have difficult times, you know itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s about what God wantsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not about what we want.â&#x20AC;? On election night in 2006, when he was first elected, Shuler was bold in his proclamation of who He served: â&#x20AC;&#x153;I just want to give my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ all the praise for this.â&#x20AC;? He would represent North Carolinaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 11th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007 through 2012. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If I would have questioned my injury and my career in the NFL, I wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have been able to accomplish the things I set out to do. If you maintain your faith and trust, everything else falls in line.â&#x20AC;?

â&#x20AC;&#x153;When you have KPMĂ&#x201E;J\S[ times, you know itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s about what God wantsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not about what we want.â&#x20AC;?

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine.

W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

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HEATH SHULER

University of Tennessee quarterback (1990-1993) NFL quarterback (1994-1997) U.S. House of Representatives (2007-2012)

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!"#$"%"&&"'()*#+ “It’s about recognizing the potential harm a jersey can cause—the self-centeredness, greed, immaturity, larger-than-life mentality, and obsession with this world—but also the potential power one’s jersey has for the good of society and, most importantly, the good of Christ’s Kingdom.” - Hunter Smith, author, musician, and former NFL punter

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ANOTHER ANGLE BY STEPHEN COPELAND

OPINION

stephen.copeland@sportsspectrum.com | Follow @steve_copeland

Z

Pedestal to the metal

ach Johnson dropped the fbomb on air the other day, and I liked what came from it. Now, let me explain, before you act like I voted democrat or haven’t read “The Chronicles of Narnia” or didn’t like “Radical” by David Platt (which, I didn’t really, so, sorry, Christian culture). On Nov. 29 at the World Challenge, unabashed Christian and PGA Tour player Zach Johnson, quite possibly the Tim Tebow of golf, cursed on air, then apologized later on Twitter. His slip-up showed his humanity, and his apology showed his aim. I liked it. In a culture where Tim Tebow is marketed and portrayed as perfect (don’t get me wrong, I love Tebow and everything he stands for, but think about it, if he was ever seen sipping a Guinness, ESPN may turn it into a 30-for-30 documentary), Johnson’s slip-up showed that he messes up—which, in my opinion, is more attractive than making others feel inadequate. Plus, as a golfer myself, anything less drastic than killing members of the gallery with a chainsaw is an understandable expression of frustration. “Hey guys, I cussed on the course today and it was on the air,” his tweet said. “I am very sorry. I am flawed and a sinner, and I admit my mistake…” I like this scenario in light of my broader point. We put Christian athletes on a pedestal. We cling to them. We see them as the superheroes in The Avengers, on the front lines, fighting for the cause we believe in. It’s not wrong to look up to them; their stories are encouraging. But we elevate them more than we elevate the cause, and that’s wrong, and we elevate their sin more than forgiveness, and that’s wrong. See, the first draft of this column was a letter to Pope Benedict XVI, asking him to canonize Tim Tebow as a saint—the point being that we already elevate Tebow to the point of sainthood anyway, so we may as well just make it official. That column, however, ended up in a folder on my desktop called “Nixed By The Editor,” and the 12 other columns already there gave it a jovial welcome to the family. I think they all had a cookout or something. Apparently, calling the Pope, “Benny,” “Sweet Sixteen,” and “Benihana” throughout the letter is borderline offensive, and I can’t say whatever I want just because I grew up Catholic for 18 years, which is probably true. So I said 10 Hail Marys and a Glory Be and repented of my sarcasm. Oops. The heart of the problem, I think—why we’re so judgmental of prominent Christians (whether it’s an athlete, pastor or politician) who may utter an f-bomb, or any curse words, and why we’re so starobsessed with people who believe what we believe whether that’s Tim Tebow or the Pope—is that Jesus isn’t enough. W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

Aaron Rodgers wins a Super Bowl, for example, and I proudly say, “Aaron Rodgers is a Christian,” comfortably telling myself, “Aaron Rodgers believes what I believe.” I go to church and see U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson sitting in front of me (which happened), and I say to myself, “I’m really happy I go to this church.” Gabby Douglas wins a gold medal, and we broadcast her quote around the Internet as if to say, “See, someone who believes in our God won a gold medal! You should believe in our God, too!” A couple months ago, right after the Olympics, I interviewed Masters Seminary professor Paul Felix, the father of threetime 2012 London Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix. He had an interesting quote about the nature of Christians in our modern culture. “She’s had an amazing career,” he said of his daughter. “God has blessed her. My thing was, win a gold medal in your relationship with the Lord. That’s more important than winning a gold at the Olympics. Christians kind of come out of the woodwork when another Christian wins a gold medal.” That’s true. Our celebrity-obsessed culture has very much invaded the church. We buy Papa Johns because Peyton Manning owns 21 of them (not pizzas, franchises), and our actions and attitudes indicate that we believe in Jesus because Tim Tebow believes in Jesus. What if Christian athletes like Allyson Felix and Tim Tebow didn’t make Jesus look “cool” and “hip?” Is Jesus enough? Is the Bible enough? The thing is, Jesus didn’t drop the f-bomb on the golf course—Jesus didn’t even sin, not once—so what’s the big deal? What’s the big deal when Sports Spectrum puts Michael Vick on the cover or runs a story that talks about disgraced basketball coach Dave Bliss? I’m a sinner who has been changed by God’s grace just like Michael Vick and Dave Bliss. I wish Jesus was enough. I wish the Bible was enough. I wish it didn’t appear as if we were too shallow and insecure in our faith as we latch onto prominent Christians like a leach, only to be let down when someone drops an f-bomb on national television or has an affair. Didn’t Peter curse when he was denying Christ, of all things? Didn’t David have an affair and then kill someone? This past summer, I interviewed PGA golfer Ben Crane, and I think he said it best. “There are also a bunch of players who would say the guys at Bible study are just a bunch of hypocrites,” Crane said. “We say, ‘Well there’s always room for one Stephen Copeland! more.’ Yeah, we are (hypocrites). That’s is a staff writer and why we need Jesus—because we don’t columnist at Sports do it right all the time.” Spectrum magazine. Somewhere, along the line, perhaps we’ve forgotten what we need. SPORTS SPECTRUM

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November 2012 DigiMag  

Sports Spectrum -- where faith and sports connect

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