Friday, April 25, 2008

Together for the Gospel

Last week I had the privilege of attending a conference called "Together for the Gospel" in Louisville, KY. Over 5500 pastors and laymen assembled together under the banner of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to hear preaching, worship through song, and fellowship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Preachers such as John MacArthur, John Piper, CJ Mahaney, RC Sproul, and Al Mohler delivered Gospel-centered and Christ-exalting sermons.

Check out their website here where you can stream or download each of the messages from the conference.

Jude 1:3 reminds us to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints". Our faith is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whereby a holy and just God can justify the wicked through the death and resurrection of His Son. There is no greater truth in all the universe than the gospel!

Josh Reynolds
Central-Northeast Nebraska FCA

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Confidence Anyone?

If you spend time with me it won’t take long to discover that the Cleveland Indians are a hot topic in my life. You can also draw the conclusion that it pains me deeply to watch the ace of the Tribe, CC Sabathia, struggle mightily to kick off this season. He still has all the tools to be the best pitcher in the majors, but right now he seems lost out on the mound. It comes down to one word: confidence.

Confidence either makes or breaks athletes. The world says that confidence comes from seeing results. What about the player who never sees results? Can they ever be confident?

As a former athlete I found myself on a roller coaster ride of emotions. If I struck out the first batter then I would have 10 strikeouts. If I hit my first three pointer then I would hit 5 threes. Early results would dictate how I played the rest of the game.

This was a very man centered attitude. I either trusted in myself or didn’t. It was all about me. The Bible is very contrary to this thought. Proverbs 3:26 says, “the Lord will be your confidence.” When the Lord is your source of confidence, then circumstances or results won’t drive your play. If the cross is your motivating factor and the finished work of Christ is your confidence, then you can compete freely. So where is your confidence? It’s not about you. It’s not even about results. It’s all about Christ.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Game Time!

"...As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." - Joshua 1:5

It is amazing to watch the athletes I coach in practice begin to really understand what it is they are being taught. It is really cool when you see the ball come off their racquet with increased speed and accuracy that certainly was not there before.

Now remember, that was practice. Now we transition to the game. It is more amazing to see what an opponent on the otherside of the net and a score will do to these same athletes. All of a sudden every ball is "patty caked" into the middle of the court just to be sure they do not miss.

If anyone must have been afraid to "whiff" in scripture it must have been Joshua. Moses has just died and now God was appointing Joshua to lead the Isrealites to the promised land. It is apparent that Joshua must have been experiencing fear of messing this up because God told him three times in the first nine verses of the book of Joshua to be strong and courageous.

It is really cool to see Joshua understand God's command to lead His people. What is even better is seeing the wisdom Joshua had to believe that God was in control as long as He followed Him. As a christian athlete, God is always with us as He has been with all of His people for thousands of years. So let's freely glorify Him with our gifts and talents without hesitation that comes from the fear of circumstances such as an opponent and a score. Let us be solely concerned with giving Him everything we have for His glory...because he is worthy.

Nate Lewis
Area Representative
Western Nebraska

Monday, April 21, 2008

Don't Quit!!

Romans 5:3-4 "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

I often have athletes come to me who are having a tough time adjusting to collegiate athletics and are thinking about quitting. They tell me that they aren't having fun anymore because of the level of competition, the lack of playing time, the difficulty of training and so on.

Now there are times when the Lord is moving us to another place in life and it makes sense to turn the page and leave the game behind. But I usually tell athletes that quitting because it's not fun anymore and the level of adversity has increased lacks wisdom. According to Romans 5:3-4, there are valuable lessons to be learned in the midst of adversity.

God's plan is good even if the road is tough. Quitting in the midst of adversity means that you miss out on the life-lessons that can only be found by persevering through that adversity. Sports, like life, is not always fun. It's about growing in likeness to Jesus Christ, and that often comes most powerfully and clearly through adversity.

In fact, Philippians 3:10 tells us that there is a special fellowship with Christ that is found in suffering. So don't quit in the midst of adversity (like a losing season, a difficult conditioning drill, injury or lost playing time). You may be missing out on intimacy with Christ and a valuable life-lesson if you do.

Chris Bubak FCA-Nebraska State Director

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Are You Officially Entered?

Romans 4:12 “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”

It’s that time of year --- after battling the winter elements in Nebraska, the Lincoln half-marathon and marathon are just around the corner (May 4). A friend of mine has her sites on a repeat run at the Chicago marathon this year.

In the 2007 marathon, as she began the race, she noticed something was on the ground. It was a runner’s chip. The device each entered runner puts on their shoe to record times and progress throughout various check points of the race, and ultimately the finish line.

There would be no record of this person’s participation --- officially, that runner did not run the race. Even if they had set a World Record, it wouldn’t have counted. Can that be said of our life?

Are we running what appears to be a ‘good race’ by doing good things for others and obeying lots of rules, but when we arrive at the final checkpoint (finish line) --- heaven --- and haven’t put our faith in Jesus as our Savior, we’re disqualified because we never officially entered the race?

John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Have you entered the race by trusting in Jesus?

Sondra Herold
Omaha-Metro FCA

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Star Power

2 Corinthians 5:10
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

Over the years, this world has seen its dose of “star power.” Athletes are some of the most powerful people on the planet. Many today believe that O.J. Simpson got away with murder, Koby Bryant with rape, and just this last Monday Carmelo Anthony with driving while intoxicated.

These athletes who are living the life of the rich and famous seemingly don’t see the need to play by the rules. We live in a “me” centered society that tells us that if we don’t get caught than we are not guilty. Is that the case? Maybe it is here on earth but not in terms of eternity.

2 Corinthians 5:10 makes it clear that God will not deal with us on the basis of rich and famous, or poor and needy. He will deal justly with our sin. Each person, either Carmelo Anthony, or Joe Smith will one day stand before the righteous judge and have to give an account for their sin and Romans 6:23 tells us that sin will be punished by death.

So remember, the next time you hear of an athlete getting away with a crime because of their status, please pray for them. In the end, they will face the same judgment as you and I if they don’t have Christ covering them.

Brian Conklin
Omaha FCA Director

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Power Perfected in Weakness

"But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may reside in me. - 2 Corinthians 12:9

It has been an interesting year for the Scottsbluff High School Girls Tennis Team. For those of you who don't know, in addition to my full time responsibilities as an Area Representative for FCA in Western Nebraska, I also serve as an Assistant Tennis Coach at SHS for both the boys in the fall and the girls in the spring.

This year brought a new coach who taught tennis in a brand new way. The intensity level has been increased, the commitment level has been increased, and both the technical and tactical side of the game have been challenged. Along with all of this has come a lot of frustration from the girls as they have been challenged to play the game the right way which has not resulted in many wins because they have never played the game the right way before. It is almost like they are starting over. Part of what has slowed the process as well has been the flat our refusal from some girls on the team to admit they are wrong in the current state of their game and be willing to make changes.

This whole senerio has triggered an interesting parable for me throughout the season. We have been trained to never let anyone know that we are wrong. Everybody needs to be right and mainly for selfish reasons and motivations. There is a problem with this train of thought on a couple fronts. Number one, logically there is no possible way everyone could always be right because then no one would be wrong. Secondly, this flies right in the face of how God has instructed us to live. If it were not for the fact that we admited we were wrong when we first realized our need for God, non of us would be Christians. We would continue to live by the standard of righteousness that we have set for ourselves and never get any closer to God.

What is interesting now is that the girls on the team are finally starting to realize that it is ok to be wrong because it is an opportunity to get better and they are! They are starting to realize that they don't have it all figured out and that by admiting their weakness, they are actually becoming stronger tennis players. May it be so in our walk with Christ. May we not be so prideful to not admit where we fall short and humbily see it as an opportunity to grow stronger in a more intimate relationship with Christ.

Nate Lewis
Area Representative
Western Nebraska

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Victory That Nets Immortality

Earlier this week, sports fans were treated to an incredible national championship game between Memphis and Kansas. As I sat down on my couch and turned on the TV right before the game, I was caught off guard by a statement made by one of the TV announcers. In introducing the starting lineup for the Memphis Tigers, the announcer made this statement, “One more victory will net them immortality.” I’m sure the announcer was trying to find the right word to describe the significance of a national championship victory for Memphis. At a record of 38-1, Memphis had already set the NCAA record for wins in a single season. They also tied Kentucky for the most wins in a three year stretch at 104. Winning the national championship would cap off an incredible season and seal the Memphis basketball team in the record books.

Memphis did not win the game, but the word “immortality” was brought up again in an article in the New York Post. Lenn Robbins wrote an article on April 9 titled, “Tigers Let Immortality Slip Away” and writes about how this happened.

Click here to read the article.

The reality is that championships and records will not last forever, nor will they immortalize those who achieve them. The Scriptures tell us that only God is eternally immortal and He alone has the power to give us immortality. 1 Timothy 1:17 refers to God as immortal, “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory and forever and ever. Amen” Paul goes on to tell us in 1 Timothy 6:16 in describing Jesus Christ, “who alone has immortality…”

The victory that Jesus Christ won on the cross and in His resurrection from the dead is the only way that we can "net" immortality. 2 Timothy 1:10 refers to this victory in saying, “and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”.

Man’s way tells us that trophies and records will last forever. God way tells us these temporary crowns will perish. Another stark contrast between God’s way and man’s way of doing sports.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Idolatry and Sports

Here is a great blog written by a pastor about the worship of sports in this country. He gives a good perspective of how we as fans tend idolize athletics. Excuse the link, but it's worth your time. Just to warn you he is a Red Sox fan, so you might need to extend him some extra grace.

Click here

Brian Conklin
Omaha Area FCA

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Standing "O"

"Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." - Matthew 26:39

Last night the Kansas Jayhawks became the College Basketball National Champions in a thrilling overtime victory over the Memphis Tigers. I have to admit, I was very happy about this as I have followed the Jayhawks year in and year out ever since I was a kid. However as I was listening to Memphis Head Coach John Calipari's comments about the closing moments of regulation, I began to question whether or not Kansas actually won the game. Of course Kansas won the game on the scoreboard, but in the eyes of God, it may have been a different story depending on the heart of the Kansas players in winning the title. Follow along closely as the stage is set and you read the comments about the situation by Memphis Head Coach John Calipari:

The Tigers were up 62-60 with 10.8 seconds left and his standout freshman was ready to hand-deliver Memphis their first national championship.

Hit both free throws and Rose might rival Elvis Presley as Memphis's favorite son.

"I'm going to tell you what I said on the bench when Derrick went to the line," Calipari told reporters. "You know, I think everything in life happens for a reason.

"And I sat there and I looked up and I said, 'Lord, if he makes this, these two, we're supposed to be national champs.' And if that's your will, I'm fine. And if he misses them and we're not, I'm fine with that, too.'

"That's what I said in my mind."

(This whole article can be found at Yahoo! sports on the web.)

It is obvious that John Calipari wanted to win that game pretty bad. If I were in his shoes, I would have wanted to win pretty bad too! I'm not sure where Coach Calipari stands with the Lord Jesus Christ, but it is pretty obvious to me that according to those comments, he valued the will of God over his own. Wow...congratulations Coach Calipari and praise God for that championship perspective in a very tense situation. You get a standing "O" from this servant of God and Kansas fan. Sounds a lot like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Sounds like a man Doing Sports God's Way.

"If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself?" - Luke 9:23-25

Nate Lewis
Area Representative
Western Nebraska

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Parable of Sports

A parable is a vivid, intense picture from something we might experience here in life to help us understand some spiritual truth that is far greater. It is "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning" and Jesus often used parables to teach us about Him.

Did you ever stop to consider the parable inherent in sports? In fact God has designed the world of sports in such a way that it is full of opportunities that are pregnant with spiritual connections that He wants us to take advantage of.

In Deuteronomy 6:4-7 God told His people to teach their children about the Lord and His commands "when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." In other words, as you go wherever you go and do whatever you do make sure you teach others about the one true God!

Jesus demonstrates this when He and His disciples walked past a fig tree and He told them to "learn the parable of the fig tree" (Mark 13:28). Just as the fig tree contained a parable, so do drills, conditioning, injuries, losing a starting position, getting pulled by the coach, bad games/seasons, good games/seasons and on and on. Learn the parables in sports and look for opportunities to use them to teach others about the person and work of Jesus Christ! We hope this blog will help you as together we explore sports for parables.

Chris Bubak - FCA-Nebraska State Director

Friday, April 4, 2008

Strengthened by the Gospel

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just the means for our salvation, but it is also the means for our growth as Christians. As athletes and coaches, our daily strength must come from the gospel, both on and off the playing field. John Piper says, "You never outgrow your need for the gospel".

Do you know the Gospel? Do you know how it can have both a saving effect, but also a sanctifying effect on your life?

Watch this 6 minute video of John Piper to find out.

Josh Reynolds
Central-Northeast Nebraska FCA

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Win At All Cost

Athletics today supports the win at all cost mentality. From steroids to spygate, athletes and coaches have lost sight of any kind of authority. In the pros, they are the ones who are making millions and believe that the rules don’t apply to them. In college, they are the ones just trying to make a name for themselves and get to the next level. In high school, and below they are the ones who are trying anything to feel loved by parents and those around them. Whatever the level, cheating isn’t pleasing to God.

Why is it that when a teacher/coach is in the classroom they will punish any method of cheating that a student may use on a test but when they are out on the practice field they will teach their players useful techniques to “bend the rules” without having the referee catch it? The answer; sports isn’t seen as a reality of life. It is almost as if sports are an imaginary world and the rules of life don’t apply at that time.

I must admit that I too have been guilty over the years. Sports have trained me at being a master of jersey grabbing, forearm throwing, and toe stomping. So what is wrong with this anyway? It’s all just part of the game, right?

Romans 13:1-2, has this to say about the matter. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

Sports have a level of authority set up by the rules of the game. Believe it or not athletics are a part of real life. We are called to have a heart that hates cheating because cheating is sin.

Brian Conklin
Omaha Area FCA

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

His Love Endures Now!

Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever.
who made the great lights - His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day, His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.
to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt His love endures forever.
and brought Israel out from among them His love endures forever.
with a mighty hand and outstreached arm; His love endures forever.
to him who divided the Red Sea asunder His love endures forever.
and brought Israel through the midst of it, His love endures forever.
but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea; His love endures forever.
to him who led his people through the desert, His love endures forever.
who struck down great kings, His love endures forever.
and killed mighty kings - His love endures forever.
Sihon king of the Amorites His love endures forever.
and Og king of Bashan - His love endures forever.
and gave their land as an inheritance, His love endures forever.
an inheritance to his servand Israel; His love endures forever.
to the One who remembered us in our low estate His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies, His love endures forever.
and who gives good to every creature. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.

And to him who gives us the ability to Do Sports His Way because of the victory of His Son Jesus on the Cross...His love endures NOW!

Nate Lewis
Area Representative
Western Nebraska