When you think about a sport, there is a specific athlete that comes to mind every time. So, if I say "basketball," who do you think of? Probably Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, or Steph Curry (in no particular order of course). What if I say Swimming? Phelps. Hockey? Wayne Gretzxy, Sydney Crosby. Football, Baseball, Soccer, etc. As humans, we have a tendency to relate things to other people. If you think of ice cream, some where in your stream of thought you will end up at a family member, or friend that loves ice cream; or a memory with one of them. That is how we are wired, we are interpersonal beings. That is how God has created us.
As athletes, we want to strive to be the best we can be. We should be bettering ourselves daily through training, eating, and broadening our skill sets. We should be working to change the way our team, our opponents, and our sport as a whole plays. A great example of this is Michael Vick. We all know he made some poor decisions, but before that, while he was in his prime; people hated to play him. Teams had to change the way they played defense when they were playing against him. Teams in the same division as Vick had to draft players to redesign their defense to be able to stop him. The Falcons built an offense around him. Kids wanted to be like him. And now you see mobile and running QBs like Cam Newton, Russel Wilson, and Dak Prescott, coming into the league and making huge careers. But before Vick, the only other QB that had THAT type of speed and QB talent was Randall Cunningham. But Cunningham didn't have near as much of an impact on the current generation of players in the NFL like Vick did. I would argue strongly that Vick changed the way the game of football is played. As athletes, we want to have that type of impact on our team, on our opponents, and on our league. That takes work though. That job is NOT easy. It takes dedication. It takes hard work-lots of it. And it takes will.
I think one of the scariest thoughts out there is knowing that, if we are doing our job of being out spoken disciples of Christ, some one out there relates the word "Christian" to a human. To one of us. That responsibility is unfit for a mere mortal. But, we are called to be disciples of Jesus. To be a disciple is to try to be like Jesus and follow his teachings. You see, you can't help the connection that people will make when they think of "Christian" and you pop in their head. But you CAN make that connection positive or negative. You can be the reason why some one is drawn to Christianity, or repelled from it. But where do we start? Where do we begin with that responsibility? No where else than Jesus himself! In John 13:34-35 Jesus told his disciples:
”34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
It is by our love for people and others that makes us as disciples stand out. Not just any love, but to Love like Jesus Loves. A sacrificial, kind, patient, faithful, gentle, truthful, relentless Love. So while we stand firm in our beliefs, we do so with grace. As we try to fathom the mindset of unbelievers and they way the they think, we do so with patience. We will not be perfect though, but our God is. Do not be to caught up in trying to be perfect cause you never will be. But with our UNperfect love, we can point to God's perfect love.
As much hard work as it takes to be a game changer in your sport-it takes more work than that to be a life changer. Careers will fade, money will be spent, but the souls of the people around you will live forever. Get caught up in the miraculous Love of our Savior that his love will pour out of us into everyone we come in contact with. Now, let's go out into this world and change the way people talk, act and think when they are around us. Not in a negative way, buy in a way that honors Christ and points to the cross. In a way that shows people what REAL love is. The one and only real love.
Tearing through the veil of darkness
Breaking every chain, You set us free
Fighting for the furthest heart You gave Your life
(You carry us, carry us
You cover us, cover us)
Your love is relentless
Your love is relentless
Your love is relentless
Your love is relentless
Have you ever made a decision, that looking back at your life, you realize was truly life changing? That decision or two that in retrospect you see would have made you or did make you out to be a different person? Whenever ever asked, "what's your biggest regret in life?" my response was always "quitting football in 10th grade." I quit football after all of the off-season and summer training, going into my sophomore year of HS, as we were entering into football camp. I quit for two reasons: I did not like the head coach that I would have and, I think, I was intimidated by the upperclassmen. I still loved the game of football though, and I had the desire to walk-on at college and play. But, then I tore my ACL playing backyard football, then a little while later, pretty much shattered my ankle playing church softball. Looking back...I think God was protecting me. I feel that if I had played football through high-school and/or college, I would be a different person. I would act different, think different, and be different. I would not have spent nearly the same amount of time with my youth group or with the people who sharpened me. I would still be Kyle Henley-but (my guess) a more prideful, aggressive, less approachable Kyle Henley. God removed me from football and surrounded me with people who have helped shape me to be who I am today. I thank God for his Sovereignty in that.
Sovereign: Possessing supreme or ultimate power; there is no aspect of reality outside of God's ultimate control. I think that understanding God's Sovereignty more increases our confidence in spreading the Gospel. If you are confident in God, and confident in His Sovereign plan, then you should be confident in your opportunities to spread the Gospel. You see, whether you are-on JV, varsity, club, or travel....God has you on that team for a purpose (whether you like it or not). God has given you those talents and skills to be on that specific team. So THAT is your mission field. You are there to spread Christ's Love and proclaim the Gospel.
Matthew 18:18-20- 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
The Great Commission. I have read this verse so many times, but this time God opened my eyes to a new way of seeing this verse:
1. He is Sovereign. 2. So spread the Gospel. 3. and trust that He is with you, always.
If we are understanding (or should I say trusting) His Sovereignty in where (physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc.) he has us, then we can be rest assured in following His command of making disciples, and we can be rest assured that He is with us, thus instilling more confidence in us. Nothing is more reassuring than when we have the opportunity to tell someone about Jesus. Like, I have never told someone about Jesus, then thought "Maybe I wasn't supposed to be at that game tonight." Contrary. Every time we tell someone about Jesus, we feel so confident in God's timing and that we were supposed to be where we were in that moment. We say that we felt God was with us. But, God never stops being Sovereign. His timing never stops being perfect. We just don't always trust that God has us at specific moments in time for a reason. For His Will.
Just to hammer the point in, lets look at it like this: If I understand God's Sovereignty, then I can trust that he has me at the WaWa in Gilbertsville at 1:38 PM standing in line for a reason. So, if I can know confidently that God is Sovereign, and I know that we are to glorify God in everything we do. Then I should be confident in knowing that I have an opportunity somewhere to show ot tell of Christ's Love to someone there.
So, why don't we step out more? Why don't we cling to God's Sovereignty so tightly that His Words just flow from our mouths all the time, every where we go? If we miss this. If we miss who God is...Then we are missing the whole point of being a Disciple of Christ.
You are on a team, striving to be good at your sport because that is where God has you. And God has you on the team for a specific purpose. Look at your team and see how you can serve them. And serve them like crazy. Love them like crazy. And may the Gospel be evident in us.
When beyond our understanding
You're teaching us to trust
Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
You're faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
Sovereign Over Us- Michael W. Smith
Shane and Shane version- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl9a7sE4bcM
The awareness of depression and mental health in athletics has been on the rise with many "big name" players committing suicide or other acts after retirement from their sport. I have seen research stating that 25% of retired athletes admit to battling depression (the keyword is admit). I think the better estimate was stated in an ESPN article: "[When]asked how many retirees suffer from depression, former Packers offensive lineman Aaron Taylor says: "It'd be easier to start with which ones do NOT have depression. Observationally, it's a significant percentage. It varies by degree, obviously, but everyone struggles." This seems like it makes so much sense when you think about the time, hours, and energy these athletes have put in over their lifetime dedicated to their sport. Athletes have worked their whole life for the 1-12 years they may get to enjoy at the next level of competition. It becomes such a part of their life and who they are. In my opinion, the fear of the unknown of life after sports keeps so many players close to the game via coaching, announcing, or analyzing, as they seek for their new identity.
I often remind my athletes that every decision they make, has an effect on their future. So, whether they choose to pick up the Xbox controller for a few hours, or go work on footwork for a few hours has an effect on what kind of athlete they will be. According to social sciences and research author/speaker Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours of a skill or task to achieve word-class status. That averages out to (leaving two weeks of vacation or off time) 3 hours a day, 20 hours a week...for 10 years! That's a lot of time. In fact, that is 11.4% of your life in those 10 years. When you consider that you will sleep about 33%, and got to school for about 13% of those 10 years; that number seems even bigger. Have you ever heard the saying "you get out what you put in?" Well, it's true. The more time you dedicate to training, the better player you will be. There is no denying that fact. No athlete got to world class status by sitting on a couch. It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes discipline. If you are not willing to give those things, then you don't really want it. So, my question is, how bad do you want it?
When you dedicate your life to something, it's hard not to find your identity in it. Whether sports, parenthood, friendship, fitness, cars, or even church...whatever it may be- all of these things fade. At some point your athletic career will end, your kids will get married, friends will move away, your body deteriorates, cars rust, and the church is full of broken people who will fail you. There is only one thing in this world that has remained the same since before time began and that's God. There is nothing wrong with the things we listed above, in fact, all of those things have been God given for us to steward. However, when we allow those blessings to become a god, we will fall. We will fall so swiftly and gracefully that we won't even realize it until it is gone and our face smacks the concrete- That's what Satan wants isn't it? To distract us just enough that we think we are looking to Christ, but in reality our feet are getting planted on termite infested wood. Where if we are not inspecting our priorities (the wood) closely and consistently, we may not realize it until the floor gives out from under us. Colossians 3:1-3 says:
1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
We need to listen to Paul's word's here. If we are Disciples of Christ, then we need to make sure our minds and thoughts are on His Kingdom. We were created by God, for his purpose. Take a look at Psalms 139:13-14.
13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
God gave each one of us specific talents and skills that we are to use for his Glory. So, if God has given you the athletic ability to play sports- Then play them. Give everything you have to honor Him through it. But, don't forget we are to Glorify God through what he gave us, and if he gave us the ability to shoot a basketball really well, then we need to use that as a platform to point people to Christ. We need work so every action on and off the court gives glory to our Savior. It is by setting our eyes, mind, and heart on Him and planting our identity in Christ that will help us avoid the dangerous slope of an identity crises and wondering what our purpose is. Your purpose is to spread the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ. Keep in mind though; we are broken people in a fallen world. So, if that crisis arises in you-remember that we have a God who is a Mighty Warrior. In the end we win; but in the mean time-take heart and endure the battle. Cling to Him, and reach out to the people God has placed in your life to point you to him. So, our challenge for the day is: In what or whom do you find your identity in? What checks and balances do you have in place to ensure our feet are planted on solid ground?
Watch this video by Right Now Media and Tim Tebow for encouragement on keeping your identity in Christ!
"He's Christian, he gave his life
But he still ain't satisfied in the savior Christ
Still finds his identity in looks and cars
If he only knew that he ain't have to look so hard
If he looked in God
It may seem odd
But he be so satisfied, he can leave it all
I'm not the shoes I wear
I'm not the clothes I buy
I'm not the house I live in
I'm not the car I drive, no
I'm not the job I work
You can't define my worth
By nothing on God's green earth
My identity is found in Christ, is found in Christ"
Lecrae (feat. Da Truth and J.R.)-Identity
My freshman year of college, I was playing tackle football with a group of friends. I was playing quarterback and we planned a designed QB run play. I sprinted down the right middle field and the defender came up to tackle me. I lowered my shoulder into him, and as he fell over he grabbed onto my leg, like any good defender would. As he did so, everyone (including myself) heard three loud pops. Clutching the grass agonizing in pain, I knew something happened. After a little while, I composed myself and the guys helped me up. I noticed my leg didn't feel right. As I held my leg off the ground, it just wobbled in the air like a punching bag (don't worry, I was really smart back then *sarcasm* and kept playing as the QB and safety. I just hopped on one leg). Turns out I tore my ACL, MCL, lateral meniscus, and fractured my Tibia (good thing I kept playing right?). The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is a very important ligament required in the stabilization of your knee joint. With much rehab and training, a non-professional or non-collegiate athlete can maintain an active life style without their ACL. However, the importance of the ACL in competitive sports cannot be denied. It is critical for the integrity, strength, stabilization, and foundation of the knee joint.
You see, in sports, having a strong foundation in your body is vital-and having all of your ligaments is important too! You don't hear of elite athletes like Le'Veon Bell, Bryce Harper, Lebron James, Patrick Kane, or any other athlete you can think of playing their sport without an ACL, or without a strong enough lower body to compete in their game. If you take away the power in Lebron's legs, you take away Lebron's game. If you remove the speed from Le'Veon Bell's legs, Le'Veon Bell would not be the running-back he is. Without strong legs, without a firm foundation under you, you wobble. You stumble. You feel weak. Have you ever worked out your legs so hard that you can barely walk straight? That feeling that if anyone or anything caused you to get slightly off balance your legs would fold like a wet paper towel? Well, that shows the importance of strong legs, a strong foundation. Now, lets say an athlete tears their ACL, gets reconstruction surgery, then tries to play the next game. Is that going to work in their favor? NO! It's going to be disastrous. They need to go to physical therapy, train, and build up their their foundation again to make them able to take the impact and wear that an athlete goes through. As an athlete, you are expected to prepare your body to be able to handle the unexpected changing circumstances of your environment. If your legs aren't strong enough to make that cut, go for that jump, or push a little farther....then you won't make it as an elite level athlete. What training are you doing to strengthen your legs? What steps are you taking to make sure your foundation is firm, not to be altered by your opponent?
On Saturday night, my wife was out, the kids were in bed, and the house was quiet. So, I thought "I'm going to have some quiet time." I reached for one of my Bibles that was located on the far left side of the book shelf, about three or four books away from the end. As I pulled the bible out of it's spot, all of the books to the right of it fell over like dominoes. My "...oops" turned into a "...hm" as I thought of the truth behind the scenario that had just played out. Just as the bible on the book shelf was holding all of the other books up, the Word of God is designed to be our foundation. When we remove it from our life, when we remove it from our world....things seem to fall apart. Now,they may not literally being falling apart. But, without the daily Word and Truth being spoken into us through the bible, our view or our perception of our circumstances may be distorted by the worlds ideas. Looking at Matthew 7:24-27 or Luke 6:47-49 we are told by Jesus about the importance of having a firm foundation through the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders.
“24Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV).
The Word of God needs to be our foundation. It needs to be the truth that we seek, and the wisdom that we crave. But we cannot just read our bible just to read it. We need to put into action what called has called us to. We need to strive (through many fall-backs and short comings) to act on his word and to seek Holiness. If we read our bibles, go to church, go to youth group...but do nothing with what we are being taught; what makes us any different than the athlete who tore their ACL, had surgery, and played the next game? Nothing. Like an athlete that needs to go to physical therapy after surgery, so do we need to go into spiritual therapy everyday with the Word of God. Build your foundation on Christ, and seek to pursue Holiness.
When the ground beneath my feet gives way
And I hear the sound of crashing waves
All my world is washing out to sea
I'm hidden safe in the God who never moves
Holding fast to the promise of the truth
That You are holding tighter still to me
The Rock won't move and His word is strong
The Rock won't move and His love can't be undone
The Rock won't move and His word is strong
The Rock won't move and His love can't be undone
The Rock of our Salvation...
"The Rock Won't Move" by Vertical Church Band
As a very competitive person, I have the tendency to “go all out” during sports. Whether pick-up basketball, playing a game at youth group with a bunch of junior/senior high students, or wrestling with my two kids-I want to win (as my wife will often remind me, graciously, I don’t know when to tone it down). I play everything like it’s the championship game. I will admit that there is a right and wrong place for my competitiveness. However, as a coach and sports fan my biggest pet peeve is when I see athletes slacking, or looking like they are giving no effort. I hate when I see a player stop running hard or not attempt to make a diving tackle as the opponent is about to enter the end zone. It bothers me to watch athletes stand there and wait to be torched by the opponent, rather than going up and challenging them.
I try to encourage my athletes to work hard all the time- Every training session, every exercise, every play. I want them to play every second of every game like it’s their last play. You never know what scout is watching, or how your effort on that particular play could have changed the outcome. But, more so, in all reality…it could be their last play. Every athlete thinks it won’t happen to them. They all know it happens…but just not to them. It takes seconds, no milliseconds, to have a career ending injury. Who wants to go out, knowing they weren’t giving it their all? Imagine blowing out your knee, nonchalantly jogging down the field looking the other way. Now imagine blowing out your knee as you hustle through and around blockers, making the game winning tackle. Big difference right? Pride verse humility, tired verse conditioned, oblivious verse aware…excuse verse effort. As an athlete you can come up with any excuse you want for your lack of effort. But as a teammate you have responsibility for your actions (or lack thereof). You need to look at your attitude and your effort daily and ask yourself; "am I doing everything I can?"
The reason for the start of this blog and the restart of YCA is that exact question I was challenged with. Am I doing everything I can to further the Gospel? You see, life is a lot like sports. Your “career” (life) could be gone in an instant. Every person knows that cancer, car accidents, and death happens. But no one ever thinks that it will happen to them. No one thinks “today is the day.” Every Disciple of Christ knows that our Lord could come back at any moment. But no one ever thinks it could be today. 1 Thessalonians 5:2 states “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” And as Jesus explains in Matthew 24:44 “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Are you ready? As athletes we put hours of practice and training into each game. But what about into our relationship with God and serving others? My goal is not to scare you into belief or cause anxiety. My goal is to challenge all of us to think of our priorities. Are we living every day for God’s Glory like it could be our last? We can make excuses, but we will be held responsible for our actions (or lack thereof). When we are before our Savior on judgment day, no excuse will work. So, we need to ask ourselves daily; am I doing everything I can?
David Bashta- Pursuit
"Strip everything away
'Til all I have is you
Undo the veils
So all I see is you
I will pursue you
I will pursue your presence
I will pursue you
I will pursue your presence..."