Monday, March 31, 2008

Focus On What You Can Control

I’ve found that successful coaches and athletes have learned to focus on the things that they can control in their particular sport; especially in the midst of adversity.

For the Christian coach or athlete, Colossians 3:23 is a great truth from God’s Word that tells us what to focus on in the midst of the test of adversity. It says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as for the Lord and not for man.”

One thing that you can control in the midst of the test of adversity is your effort. The first part of the verse commands us to do whatever you do with all your heart. This means a total release of all your abilities (physically, mentally, emotionally) to carry out your responsibility in that moment.

Another thing that you can control is your purpose ("as for the Lord and not for man"). For the Christian, your purpose (why you are doing what you're doing) is to honor Christ. When others see you in action with this as your purpose, they are moved to think great things about God.

For the Christian, the work of the Holy Spirit in enabling and empowering us to work at it with all our heart for the Lord is crucial. Who else can know the limits of our heart? Who else can know what we hold inside as our true purpose? If you want to do sports God's way, you've got to know God's Word and be in tune with His Spirit.

Chris Bubak - FCA-Nebraska State Director

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It's Never Too Early

In my experiences as an athlete, coach, coach's wife and parent --- I think the overwhelming obstacle for any athlete to develop into the maximum athlete God has designed them to be is FEAR. Fear comes in alot of different forms.

This past basketball season our 11 year old son had a 'God revelation' moment. He is a 'people pleaser' and has always sought the approval of us his parents and his coaches. He's been blessed with athletic talents, but you could see he played sometimes tentative as he played afraid of failure or mistakes in all his sports. It limited his maximum effort.

We challenged him to think on what God says in Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, NOT FOR MEN." It was incredible to observe over the last 3 weeks of competition the difference in his play and his recognition of the difference.

My encouragement to you today is --- you're never to young (or old) to try to grasp this concept of Doing Sports God's Way. It's not easy and I can't say I've totally grasped it and never failed at it --- challenge young athletes to make Godly applications of God's Word in sports. As you know, retraining a habit of Doing Sports Man's Way is alot more difficult than right training in the very beginning!

Sondra Herold
Omaha-Metro FCA

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fear Not

Fear dominates the sports world. It doesn’t matter what level of competition. This season, 3 time NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards was faced with the second knee injury of his career. It was no shock to me to hear how he handled the situation.

Arenas said this in a recent interview with the Washington Post. "It's more mental," said Arenas, who has not played since undergoing surgery on Nov. 21 to repair the left medial meniscus and a non-weight bearing bone on the side of the knee. "I'm actually scared to play right now. I think that's where we're at right now so I'm looking at it game by game. I think I'm scared to go out there right now.”

This is a sad reality. Instead of focusing on Christ and the cross, athletes often times get caught into the fear trap. This trap has a way of handcuffing athletes and keeping them from going anywhere near the potential that God has planned for them. In Gilbert’s case, it’s keeping him from competing altogether.

In 2 Timothy 1:7, God says "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline." Is the sin of fear driving your competition? If so, confess it and repent of it. Yes! The Gospel has power even over obstacles such as this.

Brian Conklin
Omaha Area FCA

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Godly Discipline

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. - Galatians 6

Discipline as defined by Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

5 a: control gained by enforcing obedience or order b: orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior c: self-control

As coaches we all demand it of our athletes. But as Christians, have we taken time to look to our head coach - Jesus Christ - to see if we ourselves are truly living a life of Godly discipline?

As we study the fifth chapter of Galatians and get an idea of the context that the previously mentioned scripture is coming from we see that the fruit of the Spirit of Self-Control is contrary to the acts of the sinful nature which are mentioned at length in verses 19-21 of Galatians 6. In other words, Self-Control is not natural. But as we begin to read verse 22 there is one very important phrase that leads us to a life of God honoring self-control and that is this: "But the fruit of the Spirit is..." So apparantly God honoring self-control is only possible according to the Word of God through a life lived by the Spirit.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." - Jesus - John 15:5

So how do we remain in Jesus and live this life of Spirit filled self-control?

"Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." - Jesus - Luke 9:23-24

A life of Godly discipline as a Christian first of all starts with an understanding that I do not own my life, God does. Then there has been one simple prayer that has helped me a ton in living out areas of Godly discipline through the power of the Spirit and it goes like this: "God I can't do this...please help me" If we believe God's Word is true then we can believe that he will help us because of his promise to us in Isaiah 41:10 that he will help us. So next time you are running that last wind sprint in practice and considering wether or not you should let up or maybe the next time you don't feel like getting up and having a quiet time or working out or loving your husband or wife, pray this prayer, ask God to help you, and live by the Spirit and then experience another fruit of the

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." - Galatians 2:20

Nate Lewis
Area Representative
Western Nebraska

Grief, but not without Hope!

For those of us in FCA, we lost a great one last week. One of our own, Rachel (Simon) Dixon was taken home on March 17, 2008. In high school, Rachel came to know Christ as her Savior and Lord through the FCA ministry of huddle coaches Mark and Lynn Wilson. Many of her friends also came to know Christ through Rachel's ministry during her high school and college years.

The funeral filled the gym at Wahoo High School with over 400 who heard the message of hope that is found in Christ alone. Josh Reynolds and I both attended, and the tears flowed. It's hard to say goodbye to someone like Rachel, even if it's just for a moment.

But the impact of her life goes on. The display of Christ as the most treasured reality in Rachel's life was bright and dazzling! So we grieved, but not without hope. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13,14 that we grieve for those who have "fallen asleep", but our grieving is not hopeless. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." There it is! The message of the cross of Christ - that Jesus died and rose again! Do you believe this?

So Rachel's wonderful confession of Christ in life and in death remains with us, for us. What about you? Do you believe this? Do you want to know the hope of Christ that Rachel has (and yes, that's present tense!)? Will you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead? I pray you will. Visit to learn more about the message of the cross. See ya soon Rachel!

Chris Bubak - FCA-Nebraska State Director

Friday, March 21, 2008

Running For the Lord

Check out this video of marathoner Ryan Hall who will represent the United States and more importantly, the Lord Jesus Christ at this year's Olympic Games in Bejiing. Ryan shattered the Olympic Trials marathon record this past November by running the marathon in 2:09:02. He ran miles of between 4:32 and 4:50 the entire race.

In this video, Ryan shares a powerful testimony of doing sports God's way, while giving us a glimpse of his training regimen.

Josh Reynolds
Central-Northeast Nebraska FCA

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Greatest Comeback Ever

In 2001, Sports Illustrated magazine featured an article on the greatest comebacks of all time. Throughout sports history, there have been some incredible comeback stories:

*Marshall University --- a chartered plane carrying Marshall University’s Thundering Herd football team and coaches crashed, leaving no survivors. This football team rose from unfathomable ruin and despair to achieve remarkable victory as a program.

*Lance Armstrong --- a cancer survivor that not only beats what appears to be incredible odds of testicular, lung and brain cancer, but is the only cyclist to ever win The Tour de France 7 times after his diagnosis.

*Michael Jordan --- known as one of THE GREATEST basketball players ever, was actually cut from his high school basketball team.

Surprisingly, Sports Illustrated selected the resurrection of Jesus as Number One. It was stated this way: “Jesus Christ, 33 A.D. Defies critics and stuns the Romans with His resurrection.” In any list of history’s comebacks, Jesus’ victory over the grave surely merits First Place. His resurrection is in a class that trumps any other comeback.

Matthew 16:21 says, “Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things . . . and be killed, and be raised the third day”. Jesus is crucified but comes back to life --- triumphing over the grave.

Jesus Christ’s comeback assures us that we too by faith in Him will come back when we are resurrected from the grave --- John 11:25-26. The empty tomb is the foundation of our faith.

Have a Blessed Easter!

Sondra Herold
Omaha FCA

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Book Review: "Quiet Strength"

The past few weeks I have had the pleasure of taking in the book “Quiet Strength.” This story takes the reader through the life of NFL coaching great Tony Dungy. Many times I come across books like these about great coaches and athletes only to be left disappointed when hearing them talk about Christ in an inaccurate manner.

It’s sad how often athletes and coaches are put in a spotlight to share their testimony and after hearing them speak we are left to wonder if they even know God? The athletic society has really watered down the meaning of the Gospel. Every Sunday afternoon you can turn on an NFL football game and see a non God fearing man catch a touchdown and then point up to Heaven as if God were pleased with him for making the catch. I’m not saying that this display after the touchdown is always false. Unfortunately, more often times than not that receiver is only thinking about their own personal glory. They are all about a prosperity Gospel: what’s in it for me.

I was so pleased to see that Tony Dungy seems to be a true follower of Christ. There was an evident point in his life when 2 Corinthians 5:17 plays out. That verse reads, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Not only was it encouraging hearing how he turned from sin, but it was also encouraging to hear about the growth in his life. Tony Dungy seems to be a man who digs deep down into the Word of God. Throughout the book he made mention of scripture that dictated the way he lived that day. 1 Timothy 4:7 says, “train yourselves for godliness.” The book makes it seem that Dungy does just that.

I would highly encourage everyone to read “Quiet Strength.” It gives great insight into the daily life of a successful NFL coach. It also does a great job of helping the reader see the connection between God and athletics. Train yourselves to allow the Gospel to dictate every area of your life, including athletics.

Brian Conklin
Omaha-Metro FCA

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sports...For His Glory, Not Ours

A story on ESPN caught my attention the other day as I sat down for breakfast and I learned that the funeral industry has begun a relationship with Major League Baseball and hope to have similar licencing agreements with Nascar, the NHL, and the NFL. MLB has agreed to have their team logos printed and embroidered on the outside of urns and caskets and also inside the caskets. In Europe, it had even gone to the level of people wishing to have their ashes held in urns at their favorite soccer team's arena. It was amazing to me the level at which people were willing to go to show their devotion to their favorite team. So much so that you wonder if that team was more important to them than God.

I then began to spend some time reading God's Word and I just happened to be reading the first part of Psalm 115 which says this: Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Why do the nations say, "Where is their God?" Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell;" and so on. For some reason as I read this, I had the picture of a sports team mascot in my head. Now I am not saying team mascots in and of themselves are bad, but I do wonder if for some of us they represent an idol in our lives. This passage of scripture goes on to say in verse 11: "You who fear him, trust in the Lord".

It is amazing to me how fired up people get when it comes to their favorite team. I believe God desires us to glorify Him even as we watch sports. It is amazing the ability God has given certain athletes. What if the next time we saw a dude fly in to the basket for an amazing dunk we thought...Wow! God created that! That is incredible! Also, watching Christian Athletes who you know are are actually worshiping God with their ability is something to really glorify God about which brings me to my next point...The level of importance athletes and coaches place on being whatever it is that their team is called can also be very sinful. Analyze your own heart and meditate on this scripture: "all things were created by Him and for Him." - Colossians 1:16. To me, this has to mean that sports were created for Him and as God creates us with a passion to compete, let us worship Him through sports and not actually worship sports themselves.

Nate Lewis
Area Representative
Western Nebraska

Monday, March 17, 2008

Complacency - The Test of Prosperity

While watching my daughter's team play at a volleyball tournament this weekend in Lincoln I was interested to see how the girls would handle prosperity. They had won every tournament that they had competed in up to that point. They have a lot of talent, work hard, and play well together.

But waiting in the midst of the test of prosperity is the hook of complacency, and they got caught by it. In the first of the tournament games, they won the first set easily, but then got beat the second set. The third was close, but the momentum was too much and they fell 14-16. They had become too complacent.

The threat in the test of prosperity is that you become over-confident and tend to rest a bit; take a breather. But the opponent will not rest! They are looking to fight back and knock you off. You must maintain your fight and your focus so that you can work hard to the very end. And at the end, you will stand in Christ!

The way to handle prosperity God's way is to remember God's providence. Thank Him for the success because God sovereignly blessed you with a gift. But keep your focus sharp and fresh. Hebrews 12:2 says, "Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith..." You can guard against complacency being thankful, and by finding a focal point that reminds you of the cross of Christ(the ball, the goal post, a spot on the court). When your mind is fixed on Christ, He will strengthen you to do sports God's way!

Chris Bubak - FCA-Nebraska State Director

Friday, March 14, 2008

Championships and Trophies

Championships and Trophies

March Madness --- Championship Week --- Those words bring a sense of electrifying anticipation to the air. In the last four weeks, Nebraska State Championships have been decided in wrestling, swimming/diving, cheerleading and dance team, girls and boys basketball. There has been a tremendous amount of excitement as individual and team championships were determined.

For many champions, they say “it’s the best thing that has ever happened”. . .that “this is the fulfillment of their lifelong dream”. But does it satisfy our restless hearts? One NFL player, who had played in three Super Bowls and had been named MVP in one of those, was quoted as saying, “yeah it’s great, but it’s still not enough. I won’t be happy until I’ve got a Super Bowl ring on all ten fingers!”

A college football player who had just experienced the thrill of winning a national championship commented that he couldn’t get over this deep feeling of depression that next morning because, in his words, “my god had died.” He had everything he had been living for. Now what?

In Ecclesiastes 3:11 Solomon explains why happiness is so elusive - - - “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” We were made for something that will last forever, and nothing that doesn’t last forever will ever fill the hole in our heart. Many pursue the “treasures on earth” (championships) that Matt 6:19-21 talks about. But those will never satisfy! We are, in fact, made for a personal relationship with God, the only ONE big enough to fill that hole because it was made for Him.

Sondra Herold
Omaha FCA

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Does God hate the way you play?

We live in a society today where people view God as a loving God. This is true. In fact, He is such a loving God that He sent His Son Jesus down to earth to act as a substitutionary atonement on our behalf because of our sin. However, too often we overlook the fact that the God of the Bible is also a God of wrath. It is very simple: God hates sin and He must punish it. Romans 12:9, says “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Does God hate the way you play? If your time in athletics is a sinful time, then the answer is yes. For example, are you playing for your own glory instead of His? God cannot and will not have anything to do with sin. If you compete sinfully, you are giving God an unholy sacrifice. (Malachi 1:6-14)

The bad news is that every single athlete at times competes in a way that God hates due to our sinful nature. However, when we allow Jesus to act as our substitutionary atonement and we allow the Holy Spirit to compete through us, then we immediately have a pleasing sacrifice to our Lord because He sees the righteousness of Christ rather than our sinful play. (For more information on how to allow the Holy Spirit to compete through you, this is a great resource)

Will you allow Christ to compete through you? If so, the only requirement is repentance. You must turn from your sin, become God’s slave and understand the wrath that Christ absorbed in your place on the cross for your sin. Remember, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Brian Conklin
Omaha-Metro FCA

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Do Not Fear!

"Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:10 - NKJV

Did you know that 51 times in the New King James Version of the Bible the exact phrase "do not fear" is found? Did you know that another 50 times in the New King James Version of the Bible the exact phrase "do not be afraid" is found? Did you know that another 10 times in the New King James Version of the Bible the exact phrase "fear not" is found?

If your coach asks you to run one time in practice, do you think he is serious about you running? What if your coach asks you to run two times in practice after not running the first time, do you think he is serious now? What about three times? Or how about 111 times!?! This is exactly what God has asked of his people in regards to fear yet many of us have yet to take him seriously enough to trust and believe His words. We are still afraid in many areas of our life and there may be no area of life where we are more afraid than in the world of sports.

In addition to my full time job as an Area Representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Western Nebraska, I am an assistant tennis coach for the boys and girls tennis teams at Scottsbluff High School. The more time you spend with the athletes on these teams the better you get to know them and you learn more about their personalities, motivations, values, likes, dislikes, etc. You also learn and are able to see right through the front a lot of them will put up about how much they are hurting inside. Maybe they have a poor family situation, or maybe they have a sinful relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or maybe they cannot hit a backhand to save their life! Or maybe, for their whole life, they have been flat out afraid and they don't know any other way to live. Granted, many of the circumstances I listed above contribute to this life of fear but non the less, fear is the end result. And for most of them, if they have never read the Bible, would have no clue that the New King James Version of the Bible commands them 111 times not to fear.

It is heart wrenching to see young athletes struggle is this area with no clue about the abundant life that Jesus has promised them in John 10:10. This isn't a life that is easy but it is a life that is most importantly glorifying to God and also a life that is more satisfying than any life that could possibly be lived. The problem is that many of these athletes have not accepted the fact that Jesus is Lord of their lives and they continue to live their life their own fear. And yes, many of them have heard about their need for Christ because of their sin...That Jesus died a brutal death on the cross to take the punishment for the sin that you and I have committed and that He rose from the dead to give us a chance at hope for victory in His eyes. God's grace is truly amazing yet many of us continue to reject this free gift and believe we are fine living life on our own, doing whatever comes naturally which most of the time is sin and rebellion against God.

What I can't wait for is the day that I see even one of the athletes I coach "get it". And yes, it gives me great joy to see them actually hit a backhand correctly, but my hope and prayer is that they are able to hit that backhand out of the freedom from fear and sin they have found in God's grace and their need for Him. There is nothing in coaching and life that is better than that. And if that simple thought fills my heart with as much joy as I feel right now just thinking about it, how much more joy must God feel when he sees one of his kids hit a backhand and do life for His glory?

Nate Lewis
Area Representative
Western Nebraska

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sitting the bench to the glory of God!

Have you learned how to sit on the bench to the glory of God? I think it's one of the more difficult and important lessons one can learn in sports; how to sit the bench while keeping your focus on God's purpose for you as a part of this team.

I thought about this as I read the following from the Lincoln Journal-Star...

According to team leader Mike Fox, there was no way Beatrice would have been the Class B champion without backup Ben Murphy. “Murphy is in there grabbing, popping people and really gives us a lift,” said Beatrice coach Jim Weeks. “He makes us better.”Fox agreed.“Murph gets in there against Zach and me in scrimmages and he’ll bang you around. He gets pretty rough. We came close to a fight in practice more than once. But we need a guy like that,” he said. (

I don't know Ben Murphy, but I love his attitude! Now I'm not condoning fighting in practice, but Ben seems to be willing to give everything he's got to help the team become the best team it can possibly become. It seems to me that he's learned to be content with his role; even if that means he has to sit on the bench.

What is your attitude when you're on the bench? Are you engaged in the game or looking around at the fans? Are you encouraging your team or are you feeling sorry for yourself? Are you learning by observing what's going on so you can contribute the next time you're in or are you thinking about how stupid Coach was to pull you out? Are you sitting man's way or God's way?

A word to parents: teach your son or daughter to learn how to sit the bench to the glory of God. Not everyone can start and not everyone can play, but the Sovereign God has given each of us a time and a place and a role according to our ability. Let the cross of Christ be a reminder that I can sit the bench and love my team by serving them because He first loved and served me!

Chris Bubak - FCA-Nebraska State Director

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Two Ways of Shooting a Free Throw

Yesterday I enjoyed some great games at the Nebraska Boy’s State Basketball Championships in Lincoln. As always, missed and made free throws down the stretch were critical to the outcome of the games. Down by one-point, with 8.8 seconds left in the C-2 semi-final game, GICC sank two free throws to give them the lead and the win over Ravenna. The young man stepped up to the line with his team down, the crowd yelling and screaming, and all eyes on him. What defined the success of these free throws? From the world’s perspective, he was successful because he made the free throws and his team advanced to the State Championship game. But is this the way God views free throws?

Free throws do a great job of showing the contrast of doing sports God’s way or man’s way. When a player is alone at the free throw line, the intentions of this heart get exposed. The world might not see it, but God certainly does. What drives or motivates this athlete at the free throw line? Man’s way defines success has getting the ball to go through the hoop. Anything short of this goal is a failure. As a result, basketball players are often driven by fear as they shoot the free throw. Fear of failure, fear of letting their team and fans down, fear of missing the big shot at state. But fear is sin. In Isaiah 41:10 God says to “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God”. God commands us not to fear! 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”.

God’s way means that you are motivated by a love for God. You step up to that free throw line with the sole aim of pleasing your heavenly Father. You desire to steward the athletic ability God has given you to glorify and honor him. Your heart is not fixed on temporary things such as man’s applause or a state championship ring. Your heart is fixed on the glory of God. He is your only audience. That way, whether you miss or make the free throw, it will be a success in the eyes of God and you will be conformed more to the image of Jesus Christ. Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” This is God’s goal in shooting a simple free throw. He desires to get the glory and for us be conformed more into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Next time you or someone else steps up to the free throw line remember the clear difference in doing it God’s way or man’s way. Remind yourself and others how to truly succeed at the line!

Josh Reynolds
Central-Northeast Nebraska FCA

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Are You Ready?

Very few athletes and coaches are going to have the opportunity to be interviewed by a newspaper or asked questions on camera by a television reporter. Many of us would just be thrilled to see ourselves in the ‘background audience’ of a sports highlight or newspaper picture.

But have we ever consciously thought about what we would talk about given the chance? 2 Timothy 4:2 says “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; ---“ Chuck Colson, former President Nixon advisor, and present day Christian author and speaker has said --- “I always know the answer before they ask me the question.”

Is it possible to preach the Word with your athletic performance? Is it possible to preach the Word while doing sports? Is it possible to preach the Word while being interviewed for a newspaper or television story? YES! God can use our actions and attitudes during the midst of competition, practice, and media interviews to preach the Gospel. Colossians 3:23 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men.” And some athletes and coaches He will give the opportunity to even use words, in very public arenas.

Please watch the following story of Dane Watts, current Creighton University basketball player, who is prepared IN SEASON ---
*A special thanks to Omaha KETV Channel 7 sportscaster Matt Schick who loves the Lord and had the courage to do this feature story.

Sondra Herold
Omaha FCA

Foolishness or Power?

Why would a wrestler eat next to nothing just to drop to a lower weight class? Why would a football player run full speed into someone 300 pounds or more? Why would a baseball player stand at the plate facing a 96 mph fastball? Why would a volleyball player take on the challenge of digging a monster spike? To someone who doesn’t understand athletics these acts may be seen as foolishness. However, to the serious competitor, these “acts of foolishness” are at the heart of athletics. True competitors will give it their all in every competition, even if the sacrifice is great.

The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, about another subject that many view as foolishness: the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 1:18, says, “For to those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power.”

How do you respond to the message of the cross? Is the message of the Gospel transforming every area of your life, including your time spent in athletics? If not, consider if you are treating the Gospel as foolishness and are therefore perishing.

Although it is a horrible truth, the reality is that I do know what it is to be perishing. Before the saving power of the Gospel took a hold of my life, I was experiencing death through my sin on a daily basis. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” It is through that power of the Gospel that I have been able to experience true life on a daily basis. John 17:3 says, “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent- Jesus Christ.”

So, do you view the gospel as foolishness or power? Do you see life as tackling, digging, hitting, shooting, etc., or do you see life as the thrill of knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ? Let the Gospel dictate your life today!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Picture of the Gospel

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." - Galatians 5:1

"You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." - Galatians 5:4-6

Have you ever been involved in a pick up game of basketball with very competitive people who demand perfection with no room for grace? They seem to forget that it is a "pick-up game" with no set offense and no one has the slightest clue where the other person is going unless you see a random pick set from time to time.

I was involved in a game like this the other night with some of my friends from Scottsbluff. My wife, Julie was playing as well and during the course of one particular possession, instead of cutting to the basket, she cut to the top of the key. One of the guys on her team was not happy with this because to him it was clear that they would have had an easy two points if Julie would have cut to the basket and received his pass for the lay-up.

Time and time again, sports reveal our imperfections. Julie should have cut to the basket and by the world's standards, if I were to have been perfect during that game, I would have made every shot I took. However, in all reality, I missed several shots and was not even close to being perfect. Later on, tempers started to flare as the game became increasingly physical. That was certainly not a picture of perfection.

As I left that night after our game, I was really bothered by the things I just described. As I took time to pray about what was bothering me, God in His incredible wisdom used this in a great way to show me how this night was a picuture of the Gospel. He brought this scripture in Galatians to mind along with the freedom that comes from Jesus changing our lives. I realized that I and everyone else out there playing that night was bound by their imperfection. They wanted to do everything right but the reality was that they were not perfect and there was little grace extended when someone made a mistake.

This is exactly what God inspired Paul to write about in the fifth chapter of Galatians when he states that there is no value in circumcision or uncircumcision. The only way to live a life that is honoring to God in all areas of our life is through faith in Christ, not by trying to be perfect out of our own power and strength. In our pride, I think this really bothers us because we think we should be able to accomplish the things we have messed up at on our own. However, the scripture goes on to say that the only thing that is worthwile is not only living our life by faith but expressing that faith through love. God has set us up in such a way that the only way we will be able experience freedom from our imperfections is by faith in Him, not only in basketball but in life.

So how does faith express itself through love in basketball? I know that Jesus had an incredible love for His father and everything He did was motivated by that. He was passionate and intense and focused when He went to the cross to die for us while all of the imperfect, sinful people around Him were spitting on Him, hurling insults at Him, whipping Him, etc. Sounds like a typical pick-up game does it not? Yet, that did not distract Him from His goal to glorify His father in heaven. Circumstances in basketball should not distract us from our goal to glorify God either. If the game becomes physical, our goal is still to glorify God. If we miss a shot, our goal is still to glorify God. If our teammate cuts to the key when they should have cut to the basket, our goal is to still glorify God. This is when basketball becomes more than just a game for fun, it becomes worship to the only God who is worthy. And that is when we experience freedom from our sin and imperfection. Praise God!

Nate Lewis
Western Nebraska FCA
Area Representative

Monday, March 3, 2008

Everything You've Got!!!

Last week I went to watch the Nebraska men's basketball team play Oklahoma with my 10 year old son. As we watched the game, I was so impressed with the level of effort that Nebraska gave on every possession! I pointed this out to my son because I wanted him to be able to recognize and applaud guys who were working with all their heart to play good defense, find open shots, rebound and protect the ball.

As the game progressed, there were several times where bodies became airborne in a sacrificial attempt to save a possession from ending in a turnover, or to gain a possession from the opponent. Again, I pointed this out to my son and reminded him that this is how God wants us to compete (in fact how He wants us to do whatever we do)...with everything we've got!!

But the gospel of Jesus Christ reminds us as Christians that this isn't just for personal glory. Paul tells us that those without Christ can be found working with all their heart, but they do it for a crown that results in nothing more than some short-lived personal glory; a perishing wreath or tarnishing trophy.

However, as Christians, our reward is not self-exalting personal glory, but eternal Christ-exalting glory to God. We should give everything we've got in whatever we do for the glory of God. When people ask us why we work so hard at everything we do, our response should be to point to the cross! We do it because of what He did for us; this is our love response to how He first loved us with everything He has!!!

When we compete (and live) this way, God's way, we display Jesus as the most beautiful reality in the world to the people around us. Colossians 3:23 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as for the Lord and not for man."

There are two ways of doing sports; man's way and God's way. Which way are you on today?

Chris Bubak
FCA-Nebraska State Director

Be Alert!

“Stay focused!” “Get Ready!” “Be Alert!” These are all common phrases that are heard out of the mouths of athletes, coaches, and fans. At the risk of getting lulled to sleep in a big game or missing an assignment on a critical play, we need to remind ourselves and teammates to keep our eyes on the target.
This weekend, for example, the Nebraska Girl’s State Basketball Championships are being played and there are sure to be plenty of distractions for the athletes and coaches. They are playing on a much bigger stage and in front of a larger audience. The opposing teams are much better than those they faced during the regular season. The stakes have been raised and the pressure to win has increased. Every team is playing away from home and out of their comfort zone. For a team to win the state championship, they must “Stay focused!”, “Get Ready!, and “Be Alert!”.

Jesus made similar statements to his followers in reference to his Second Coming. In Matthew 24:42,44 Jesus said, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming…Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Paul says the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 5:6, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” On the same theme, Peter writes, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are playing an away game in front of a hostile crowd. We constantly face distractions and obstacles in our walk with Christ. Temptation to sin lurks around every corner. We are engaged in a battle against an enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). What do the Scriptures tell us to do? Jesus commands us to “stay awake” and “be ready”! I love Hebrews 12: 1-2 which reminds us where our focus should be, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

As we play sports and the game of life, our eyes must constantly be on Jesus Christ. He will come back when we least expect Him!

Josh Reynolds
Central-Northeast FCA Director