Friday, May 30, 2008

God's Weight Room

Thanks to Nick Orduna for pointing out this great devotional from Ron Hutchcraft.

God's Weight Room

Josh Reynolds
Central-Northeast Nebraska FCA

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Friend or Foe?

Athletics today are driven by hate and anger. Coaches teach athletes to hate their opponent. Rivalries are made because anger reigns between two teams. What happens when you reach the Eastern Conference finals only to play against one of your best friends? This happens to be the case as the Detroit Pistons take the court against the Boston Celtics. Superstars Chauncey Billups and Kevin Garnett have one of the most unique relationships in the NBA. Garnett is actually the godfather to the second child of Billups. How can you possibly compete in this situation? The answer, LOVE. Love is the greatest motivation. If these athletes were driven by hate or anger against their opponent, then they would be put into a difficult situation.

Jesus has this to say in Matthew 5:43-44, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Does love mean to let your opponent win? No! God calls you to be the toughest competitor out there. However, let your motivation be for the love of Christ. Tackle your hardest, box out the toughest, and spike with all your might. But also pray, for this is what God has commanded us to do.

Brian Conklin
Omaha FCA

Put on the New Self

A continued confirmation from the Word of God on His desire for our lives...including sports:

"You were taught with regard to your old 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; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." - Ephesians 4:22-23

As we compete are we being made new in the attitude of our minds? That is the whole point of sports as a Christian athlete. Many times when we think about Doing Sports God's Way we think about the things that are tangible and can be seen with our eyes. And a lot of times those things are motivated by a heart to honor our Lord. But notice Ephesians 4:22-23. Putting on the new self starts with being made new in the attitude of our minds. In competition this forces us to answer questions like these:

1. What Biblically should be our goal when we compete?

2. As a Christian Athlete, how should we define winning?

3. As a Chriatian Athlete, what is our motivation in competition?

By trusting God's Answers to these questions found in His Word, we begin to put on the new self and become like God in true righteousness and holiness.

(Scriptures to look at to help you answer the above questions:
Romans 8:28-29
Philippians 3:10
Colossians 3:23-24
Romans 12:1-2)

Nate Lewis
FCA Area Representative
Western Nebraska

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Ultimate Closer

Last week, the Grand Island high school baseball team captured its first Class A state baseball championship by defeating Millard West 7-6. Mike Patterson wrote about the game in the Omaha World-Herald. He starts the article as follows,
"Entering the final inning of the Class A state championship game, Grand Island coach Rick Kissack wasn't sure whether to send ace Kash Kalkowski back to the mound. But that's when he heard his star pitcher say the magic words. "He said, 'Coach, I'm going to win it for you,'" Kissack said. "That was all I needed to hear." Coach Kissack put Kash in to close the final inning and the victory was sealed.

This reminds me of the victory Jesus won for us by voluntarily laying down his life for His team as a substitutionary atonement for our sins. From the very beginning, God's plan was to send His Son, in the form of man, to die on a cross for our sins and be resurrected from the dead. Even as early as Genesis 3:15 we see the plan as God says to Satan, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers, he will crush your head, and you will bruise his heel." Peter preaches in Acts 2:23-24, "this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and forekowledge of God, crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it."

Leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to His Father in the garden of Gethsemane saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matt. 26:39b) He submitted Himself to the Father's will and later on in the same chapter after Jesus had been seized by the chief priests and elders, he said this, "Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?" (Matt. 26:53-54)

Christ was on a specific mission to achieve a specific victory, the redemption of His people. 1 Corinthians 5:14-15 tells us, "For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." He came as a "propiation" for our sins, satisfying diving wrath that we deserved(Romans 3:25).

Far from a closer in a state championship baseball game, Jesus Christ was the ultimate closer. He achieved for His team a victory that will last for eternity; the redemption and salvation of our souls!

Josh Reynolds
Central-Northeast Nebraska FCA

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Winning as Defined by God

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death," - Philippians 3:10

In high school girls tennis the middle of May brings the State High School Tennis Tournament. It never ceases to amaze me at how this game reveals the true heart of our young people and especially at state. This year one girl on our team really stood out to me as a prime example of how man's goals can significantly limit our potential.

In order to make it to the second day at state a player must win three grueling matches which then puts them in the semi-finals. The whole year this particular girl on our team made no secret of the fact that her goal was to make it to the second day of the tournament. Her play had been up and down her whole career as her biggest opponent when she stepped onto the court was herself.

However on this day at state, she was on her game. Being unseeded, she breezed through the 1st round and in the second round she gutted her way through a tough two set match against the five seed to give her a shot to make it to the second day...a quarter final match up with the four seed.

The whole match was amazing. I had not seen her play this well her whole career. She had incredible focus, intensity, and was able to listen and apply what the head coach was asking her to do during change overs. She ended up winning this match in a third set tiebreaker to make it to the state semi-finals the next day.

What a difference a day can make. She was nervous, tight, and had little energy on the court. She lost 6-0, 6-0 and then proceeded to lost her consolation match 6-0, 6-1. The sad part of it was that the girls she played were not that much better than the girl she had beat in the quarterfinals. Her goal was to make it to the second day and she accomplished that goal but what she didn't realize is how far short she fell from her potential.

As a Christian Athlete, the second day at state or even winning a state title is way to small of a goal. Paul had it figured out when God inspired him to write about his goal for us in Philippians 3:10: "I want to know Christ...becoming like him in his death," The goals that were previously mentioned leave us empty and unsatisfied because they are not the goals God has designed for us. The only way we will be truly victorious is when each day in sports and in life we know Christ more and have become more like Him. It is then that we will experience a sense of satisfaction because that is how God created us to give Him glory.

Nate Lewis
FCA Area Representative
Western Nebraska

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Parenting and sports - a followup to Brian's post

The following excellent article is a piece that we have used in FCA to sharpen our thinking on how to steward sports. I would highly recommend it to coaches and parents who are in positions to teach athletes to recognize God's sovereign hand at work in their lives through the parable of sports.

You can learn more from C.J. Mahaney by visiting his blog at:


Fathers and Sons And Sports
by C.J. Mahaney

I will do my best to provide some answers to your excellent questions about fathers and sons and sports. It is certainly an area I have given some thought and attention to, because of my love for sports and my son Chad’s participation in sports. My son is not only familiar with my love for sports, he is also aware of my idolatrous devotion to sports prior to my conversion. For me, participation in sports growing up was a means of self-exaltation. But I want my son to glorify God and not himself when he plays. So from a young age I have sought to protect him from emulating my past sinful example while building into his soul an appreciation for playing sports as a gift from God. I attempted to address this topic in chapter twelve of Humility: True Greatness.

Playing sports holds great potential for growth in godliness for our sons, but only if we as fathers lead our sons theologically and strategically. I fear that all too often our sons devote significant time to playing sports with little growth in godliness. Here is where the example and leadership of a father can make all the difference. It is our responsibility as fathers to teach and prepare our sons with biblical priorities prior to a game (or practice) and not to assume that we have fulfilled our fatherly responsibility simply by attending the game. And after the game, we should encourage and celebrate evidences of godliness and not primarily our sons’ athletic ability or achievements. Our priorities for our sons’ participation in sports must be theologically informed priorities rather than culturally celebrated priorities. Fathers who aren’t theologically informed are more impressed with athletic ability, statistics and final scores than they are biblical masculinity and godly character.

So, prior to each practice and game (Chad plays basketball and soccer) I have a conversation with my son about how he can glorify God. Here is a sampling of the biblical priorities and practices I review with him:

*Humbly receive correction from your coach and ask your coach how you can grow in character as well as athletic skill.
*Thank your coaches for the way they have served you. And thank the referees after each game.
*Encourage your teammates for their display of godly character and athletic skill--in that order of priority.
*Encourage your opponents during and after the game. If you knock someone over, extend your hand to help them up.
*Play the game passionately and unselfishly. Serve your team by playing aggressive defense [his father never did this] and passing the ball on offense [again, his father never did this].
*Humbly respond when the referee calls a foul on you. Do not complain or disagree in word or by facial expression [his father never did this].
*No inappropriate celebrating after you score; instead, recognize that others played a role [his father never did this].
*Thank the team manager for the way he served and recognize the humility and servanthood he is displaying each game. True greatness is sitting on the end of the bench.

There is nothing original or profound about this list. But helping my son apply it to his heart and life can make a profound difference. So after each game, I review the above list with my son. I go over the game with him and celebrate any and all expressions of humility and godly character. I tell him that this is more important to me than how many points he scored or whether his team won the game (although we do play to win!). Remember, fathers, what you honor and celebrate, your son will emulate. Therefore, we must celebrate godly character more than athletic ability or achievement.

This applies to watching a game as well. So as Chad and I watch the tournament, I will draw his attention to any evidence of humility or unselfishness I observe, as well as any expression of arrogance or selfishness. I will celebrate the former and ridicule the latter. I don’t just watch the game with Chad; I seize it as a teaching moment to equip him with discernment about true greatness in the eyes of God.

My passion for my son as he plays sports is that he would please and glorify God. I want him to grow in godliness, not simply athletic ability. You see, Chad will never play professional sports. His participation in sports is temporary and meant to be preparatory. Like his father, he will inevitably grow old and only be able to walk for recreation or play golf poorly. But, by the grace of God, sports can help him grow in godly character and prepare him for manhood. His participation in sports can equip him to fulfill his calling as a man to humbly and courageously serve and lead in the home, church and culture. But for that to happen, a father must teach his son to discern and adopt biblical priorities and practices while playing sports.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Parenting Your Child Through Sports

If you have followed the NBA playoffs this year, then you certainly have heard about the unordinary ordeal that took place in the Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers series. This past week Lebron James was fouled extra hard by Paul Pierce when driving to the basket. That wasn’t the big story though. The big story came when the mother of Lebron James walked on the court, defending her talented superstar of a son. As Mrs. James yelled at the ref in defense, Lebron approached her and cussed at her telling her to sit down. Fortunately, Lebron was held back by opposing superstar Kevin Garnett of the Celtics.

Sports have a way of bringing about interesting scenarios, with this being one of the most intriguing that I have yet to hear. Though Mrs. James was just supporting Lebron, it forces me to consider, “What is the role of the parent in sports?”

I believe the answer is fairly simple. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says, “And these words which I commanded you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates.”
Oh, by the way, these same commands should be in your car rides to and from games. They should be demonstrated through the way you cheer at the games, the way you interact with officials and other fans. These commands deal directly to the time that your kids spend doing sports. Teach them in the midst of all this. Let sports be the greatest learning opportunity that your child has. Teach them to “Do Sports God’s Way.”

Should Lebron's mother defend her son? Absolutely, there's nothing wrong with that. However, the manner in which she did that was in volation of the rules, using crass language, and certainly not displaying herself in a Christlike way. What would you have done in her situation? Or better yet, what does the Word of God encourage us to do at such a time?

Brian Conklin
Omaha FCA Area Director

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

God's Design

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23

I love sports! I love it for many reasons but one of the reasons I really love sports is because of what it reveals to us about ourselves and about God. Having the opportunity to coach tennis has given me an even greater passion for sports as time after time opportunities arise to teach kids about how God desires us to compete and live life.

On our team this spring we have had two girls who are flat out angry when they play. I had an opportunity to sit down with one of the girls after practice and hear her hurting heart. She was so angry because she was not accomplishing what in her mind was her goal. She wanted every ball to go in and they were not...not even close. And why did she want every ball to go in? So that everyone could see that she had the ability to accomplish her goal.

Now there are a number of things that are sinful about this situation. The anger and selfish motivation to name a few. But what God lead me to teach this young athlete was about how He had created her. God had created her to be in relationship with Him. And when we are not living His way, we are not living the way we were designed to live. Anger and selfish motivation are not part of that design. I knew because I had been there before. Always having something to prove and becoming very angry when it wasn't proven. I have missed a lot of balls and lost a lot of points playing this game and the one thing I have finally learned through all of that is just how imperfect I am. That is why I need Jesus so much. Someone had to take the wrath of God for us breaking His law. For those of us who have said: "I am done living life my way and want to trust Jesus with my life and live it His way", we understand that Jesus took the wrath of God that we deserved. Not only that but He rose from the dead and declared victory over sin. Because of Him we can now live a life that is honoring to God through His spirit that indwells those who have trusted Him. That is also why I can have peace when I miss a ball and I can go after the next ball with everything I have for the glory of God because I now know that there is no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). We are free from sin and alive in Christ. And for that I am so thankful because I know there is no better place I can be.

Nate Lewis
FCA Area Representative
Western Nebraska

Monday, May 12, 2008


Bonnie Richardson ran. She threw. She jumped. And finally, she accepted the 1A team championship for Rochelle High School. She was the only athlete from her school to qualify for the state meet. It was the first time a single athlete had won the girls’ team title – by herself!

For the record, her marks in the field events were: high jump (5 feet, 5 inches), placed second in the long jump (18-7) and was third in the discus (121-0). The next day she won the 200 meters in 25.03 seconds and nearly pulled off a huge upset in the 100 before finishing second (12.19) to defending champion. She earned a total of 42 team points to edge team runner-up Chilton (36).

Bonnie Richardson couldn’t have been more prosperous in the Texas state track meet. However, real prosperity is more of a condition of our hearts, rather than attaining individual or team goals.

God does promise to bless us with food, clothing and shelter as we seek Him (Matthew 6). Rather than manipulating and seeking after selfish ambitions, stay faithful and humble. Allow God to decide when you should be exalted and praised.

You've seen repeatedly if you watch much religious television. The health-wealth-and-prosperity gospel advocated by so many televangelists is the ultimate example of fantasy faith. This false gospel appeals to the flesh, corrupting all the promises of Scripture and encouraging greed. It makes material blessing, not Jesus Christ, the object of the Christian's desires. Christ is no longer the focus of the message. Never forget that Christ died on a cross to save us from God’s wrath, not to provide us with our best life now! For the believer, the best life is yet to come.

Gordon Thiessen

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Father's Love

I came across this incredible video and story again this week. Team Hoyt is comprised of a father and his paraplegic son who compete in triathlons and ironman races together. The ironman race consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile marathon run. I don't know the spiritual condition of these two men, but as I watched this video, I realized there are several spiritual analogies to consider.

It is moving to watch this father's care and love for his son. In many ways it is like the love our heavenly Father has for his children. I was also struck by the definition of love in 1 John 3:16, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers". Team Hoyt is a great example of how we should serve and love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Finally, it reminded me of Exodus 15:13, where Moses and the people of Israel sang to the Lord, "You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode." As redeemed brothers and sisters in Christ, who still carry with us unredeemed fleshly bodies, we are all being led and guided by the the love and strength of the Almighty God. Jesus says in John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." As we run the race of life, the only way we can ever have hope of crossing the finish line is through the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tell us that, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." It is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross that we can be saved and have the hope of eternal life!

Josh Reynolds
Central-Northeast Nebraska FCA

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Unifying Power

Last week this country lost a pioneer in the coaching world. Coach Will Robinson died at the age of 96 after becoming the first ever black Coach at a Division 1 program. He broke the barriers and united the sports world with people of all races. Sports today have become a common language to so many people. There are teammates and coaches all over the world who don’t speak the same language but clearly communicate when it comes to practice time and game time.

The only other thing in this world that brings unity like sports does is the Gospel message. As stated in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

Jews and Gentiles, both dead in their sin were saved by this common message. Those who distort and change the message cannot ever understand the unifying power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is such a great thrill to be able to call another follower of Christ, “Brother,” “Sister.”

Brian Conklin
Omaha FCA Area Director

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Wisdom in Competition and Life

In learning what it looks like to compete for Christ, I have found that a total release of everything you have may look different in different situations. There is strategy to consider. In my last post, I talked about the fear that many athletes experience when it is game time. Many times they will tense up and not compete with the freedom from sin that comes from a relationship with Jesus. As a tennis guy, not long ago I experienced fear because I had not hit my second serve in competition in a long time. For those of you who are not familiar with tennis, most of the time you take a lot more risk in hitting a first serve with more precision and velocity. If you miss then you try to hit a more accurate second serve so that you give yourself a better chance to win the point. Eventually I prayed and asked God to forgive me for not giving Him everything I had in hitting my second serve. Then I began to think about what giving Him everything I had in hitting a second serve looked like. When I began to process this, I realized that it would be completely ridiculous for me to hit my second serve just like I did my first one. That is not wise and not giving God everything I had. There is strategy to consider within the context of the game. It would be wise for me to put more spin on the ball to create a more accurate serve. I would still swing my arm with everything I had for the glory of God however I would simply hit the ball in a different place which would create more spin and accuracy. I would still hit the ball without any fear of missing because God said many times in the Bible to NOT FEAR!

This is just like life. The strategy in life may change based on the circumstances God puts before you but those circumstances should in no way create fear because the God we serve promised in His word to never leave us, to strengthen us, to help us, and uphold us with His righteous right hand. God does not desire us to go at life with reckless abandon having no clue where we are going or what we are doing. He desires us to attack life without hesitation with His plan in mind...a plan that He has perfectly created for us and promised to us in Jeremiah 29:11.

Nate Lewis
Area Representative
Western Nebraska

Monday, May 5, 2008

Getting Your Eyes Off of Self

Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University uncorked her first home run in her college career with two runners on base in a playoff game against Central Washington University. While rounding the bases, she missed first base. As she started back to tag it, she collapsed with a knee injury. She was only able to crawl back to first but could do no more. She would been called out if her own teammates had helped her around the bases.

For the rest of the story plus a lesson on "Doings Sports God's Way" go to

Gordon Thiessen