Real Talk

We have all been in a position where we have said a little too much. We have given away information about something that is not our business, or maybe we have asked our friends to pray for that one friend who is "really needing the Lord." Truth is, sometimes we leave a conversation feeling gross or icky and we ask ourselves, "Did I just gossip?" **GASP** Yes ladies and gents, we are talking about the G word today. That little word that everyone avoids, but in reality everyone does, whether blatantly or subtly. Everyone gossips, and if they say they don't (just like my inner voice is currently trying very hard to convince me of), you might want to buckle your seatbelts, cause it's about to get real today. Even now as I type these words I feel a little voice in my head saying, "I don't gossip! I have listened to others gossiping but I don't do that! Not me, I'm too kind-hearted for that..." Sound familiar? Truth is, whether you are the person handing out information that is not yours to give, or you are the person listening to this piece of news that someone is giving you behind someone else's back, it's gossip. 

Why does it feel so good to be given a juicy new piece of information!? Why do we feel "satisfied" when we know all of the information in the world!? The Bible gives us some insight in Proverbs 18:8 :

"The words of gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts."


In another translation, it calls gossip, "cheap candy," it satisfies you for a moment, but at the end of the day it makes you feel like junk! So why do we do it? Cue the dramatic music in the movies and imagine me falling to my knees yelling, "WHYYYYYYYY?!" I believe that the reason gossip feels "so good" is because it makes us feel a few things about ourselves. It makes us feel powerful, important, needed, and special. Whether we want to admit it, gossip, or being a part of it, makes you feel good about yourself.

In the second part of this verse, it says that the words go down to a man or woman's inmost parts. Now, this is not talking about your stomach, but your heart and your soul. Think about this. When you hear a piece of information not about you or the person telling it to you, where does it go? It goes into your heart where it is then stored away, sitting there like a little bit of poison that festers day by day. Kind of dramatic maybe? Let me explain. When you hear gossip, it gets stored away in your heart like a file in a filing cabinet. It sits there, and sadly, if not taken to God or to the person it is about, this piece of information will inevitably change how you think, treat, and feel about that person. Do you see how damaging that could be to relationships?

Proverbs warns us MULTIPLE times that gossip, and what comes out of our mouths is important to keep a watch over. Proverbs 18:7 says:

"A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul."


Long story short, gossip is very real, and we all do it. But the good news is that our God is also real and there is healing and restoration that can be found in Him. God sent his son Jesus down to this earth to die for us and carry the weight of our sins to put them to death once and for all! If you read this today and felt burdened or felt a weight on you, talk to God about it, repent, and ask him to lift it off you! Son and daughter of God...your Father wants nothing more than to see you be whole, and healed, and receiving the love that He has for you! His love and grace are free for all, but it doesn't just end there; God also calls us to examine and probe our ways, and to stop living in the old ways of life and live in the new life and promises that He has for us. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

"Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a [person their] life, and it is grace because it gives a [person] the only true life."


So my challenges to us all today are these:

1. Examine your heart and chat with God about it. Ask Him to reveal to you what is in your heart and through that conversation with the Lord, restoration can begin.
Ask Him for healing in areas of your heart that maybe you didn't know needed healing. Ask Him for forgiveness and thank Him for all he has blessed you with.

2. Proverbs 10:11 speaks about how your words have the potential to bring life, or to bring death. Which will you choose? If you had 5 minutes to just sit down and replay all the conversations you had yesterday, did your words end up bringing life or death? Did your words encourage and uplift someone, or did they bring them down?

Take it from me...this conversation with God is not easy, nor is it always pleasant, but He always reveals and always shows us what is broken within so that it can be healed. You are not alone and never will be, please be encouraged in that today. We all struggle with this, but with help and through confession to one another as it says in James 4, we can find true healing.

Prayer

Father, I thank you today for all the blessings you have given me. I thank you Father that you care about my heart, and you care about my spirit. I thank you Father that you sent your Spirit to be my friend and guide and to challenge me in areas that I need to be challenged in. Father I lift up my heart to you, and I pray Lord that you please begin to change my heart and help me to be more aware of my words and actions towards others. Father remind me of your love and grace for me and continue to guide my steps to be more like your son. I thank you for Jesus who you sent to bear the weight of my sins. I pray the prayer from Psalm 141 Lord, Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Watch over me God, and be with me always. In Jesus' name, Amen.

BY: SIAM ORTIZ

"Worship In Victory, Worship Harder In Trials"

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats on their victory last Monday evening!  It didn't look promising for the first couple minutes, but then all the preparation paid off as Villanova slowly rose to victory.  But, did you happen to catch the post-game interviews?  Check out a few of the player comments: 

"Everything that happens to me is a blessing man and, I'm incredibly blessed to be here and, I can't stress enough how blessed I am to be in the position that I am and that's all a credit to God."

Villanova guard: Omari Spellman

"My mom shoots me texts every day. Just saying how blessed you are and how humble to be around this, so definitely...she shoots me Bible verses. If you go through my phone there's a whole bunch." 

"It just keeps me level-headed you know. Just to know that there's someone higher out there.

- Villanova forward: Eric Paschall

"In the grand scheme of things, this is an amazing event that we're going to be remembered forever, but it's still a basketball game, just keeping faith always in mind always helps us keep perspective and keeps us humble and hungry."

- Villanova guard: Mike Kennedy

One of the things I've always loved about a post-game championship interview is hearing players giving all the glory to God.  At the pinnacle of it all, after the hours, days, and years of work that's been dedicated to preparing for the victory, a humble response giving it all to the one and only creator is awesome!  But, what about when you put all that time and dedication into something and fall short? What about the Michigan players? Perhaps you caught a story that aired several years ago on ESPN about Austin Hatch...

Austin Hatch has been dealt a pretty tough hand.  He is the survivor of two plane crashes (two!). The first cost him his mother, brother and sister.  That was back in 2003. Fast-forward to 2011 and the same thing happened only this time he lost his father and step-mother.  Hatch was so severely injured in that crash that he was left unable to walk. Through years of rehab, Austin made his way back to the court with an amazing testimony.

Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'

- Matthew 19: 26

Surely, it won't come as a surprise to you to hear the response Austin had to coming so close to achieving his dream of winning the NCAA men's basketball championship: 

"My faith has always been there. It's always going to be there, it's not going anywhere. And that's one thing that I've been able to really, really lean on in the midst of all that I've lost. And you'd think that your family is always going to be there, hopefully, they always will be. I've had to learn that the hard way that unfortunately that's not the case for everyone. But my faith will always be there man. Always."

- Michigan guard: Austin Hatch

I hope it's inspiring to see how the players of Villanova humbled themselves and gave the glory to God during their victory.  But, I hope it's even more inspiring to see a player with the trials of Austin give the glory to Christ.  I don't know what you're going through, maybe it's a great season in your life, or maybe you've gone through something more like Austin.  But, today, rejoice in the midst of whatever chaos you are dealing with.  God has you exactly where you are for a reason, you need only rejoice and trust in the Lord.  

Challenge:

1. No matter what, give thanks to the Lord today. 
2. Rejoice in your circumstances whether they are ideal or less than ideal. 
3. Pray for God to work through your season and build you in ways that you could never be built without what you are going through. 
 

Prayer

Father, thank you for the blessings in my life and thank you for the things that I don't understand.  Father, give me strength to see past my circumstances and know that no matter what, you are God and completely in control.  Help me to rejoice in all things, know that you are a good, good Father and you have great plans for me.  We love you, Lord. Amen

BY: TRAVIS CAREY

Choose to "Live Free"

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

What the heck does freedom have to do with sports?

          Almost everyone has gone through the following two phases while playing a sport. The first phase is when you are playing and the game seems so easy; almost no matter what you do you succeed and it takes little thought because the game feels so natural to you. The second phase is one where you are struggling and can’t seem to catch a break, ever. It seems like no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to succeed.                                                   

          There is a sports cliché that says “90% of performance is mental.” There is also a similar cliché in life that says “10% of life is what happens to us and 90% is how we choose to react to it.” So what does that have to do with Galatians 5:1 and freedom?

          The 2nd sentence of the verse explains that to live in freedom is a choice! On the flip side, it also says to be burdened by a “yoke of slavery” is a choice. No matter what we do (sports, work, life, etc.) we have a choice to make on if we are going to approach certain things with a ‘freedom’ mindset. It’s all about perspective and we are in complete control of it! (I picture all the control freaks reading this shouting,  “hallelujah!”)

           In a book that we are reading as a sports ministry staff called, “Mind Gym” it talks about how “every athlete hears two competing voices. One is a negative critic, and the other is a positive coach. Which voice we listen to is a matter of choice”. The book gives example after example of athletes that face similar challenges but achieve different results because of the choice they make on how to approach it mentally.

          The athletes who listen and buy into the negative critic attitude consistently underperform because they are tied down by their fears and doubts. They focus on not making a mistake and ironically in doing so they make that mistake. Or even worse, they go into the task at hand already expecting defeat before they’ve even started. To be blunt, this is a crappy way to play the game (or in a greater context, to live life). This is the mindset that the 2nd sentence of Galatians 5:1 is telling us to stand firm against. As Chelsea referenced in last month’s devotional, Jesus says in Matthew 11:30 that his “yoke is easy and burden is light

          An athlete with a positive coach mindset sees every obstacle as an opportunity to succeed. They aren’t worried about failing because they understand that in the worst case scenario they learn something new for next time. As an example, from “Mind Gym”, Edgar Martinez, a terrific hitter in the MLB for years, found himself going through a slump. Regardless of the slump, at batting practice before a coming game he was laughing and upbeat; he was excited because it was another opportunity to break free. He knew there was light at the end of the tunnel and that it was only a matter of time before he reached it.

          This mindset is absolutely applicable in our spiritual walk! John 10:10 says, “The thief (devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” We have an enemy who wants to destroy our lives and he is wise enough to know that our most vulnerable point of attack is our mind. He does whatever it takes to plant thoughts of doubt, fear, and hopelessness in our minds in hope that we start to believe them and eventually we become slaves to them. However, Jesus didn’t die for us so we could live this way. He says he already defeated the enemy so we can live in complete freedom from fear and condemnation.

          Our fearless Young Adults leader, Jessie Davis, preached a sermon on the topic once and she explained that each thought we have is a seed. You can choose if you want to water that seed by believing it. The more you water that seed the bigger it grows and the more it becomes who you are.

          Our minds are our biggest battlefields, whether in life or sports, and it requires a daily fight. May the William Wallace be stirring in all of our hearts to fight for the freedom Christ died for. (This is where we would raise our bibles together and toast, “To Jesus! Dilly dilly!”)


Take a minute to examine yourself and the seeds you’ve been watering in your mind.

Are they seeds of positive coaching (encouragement, hope, & freedom)? Or are they seeds of negative critical thoughts (fear, doubt, self-pity, hopelessness, & condemnation)?

Key takeaways

  • You always have a choice to which thoughts you are going to believe, are you going to choose to live with a freedom mindset?
  • From the mind forms your beliefs, from beliefs form your character, and character forms your actions.
  • Your mind takes consistent training to build up healthy thought habits and to maintain them. Be intentional with the seeds you are watering!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you that you are with us, you are for us, and never against us. Thank you for defeating the enemy so that we never have to live in hopelessness and condemnation, but instead we can walk forward in the freedom that your Son died for us so we could have! Lord would you give us incredible wisdom and discernment to shoot down the flaming arrows and equip us with a supernatural perseverance that never grows weary. We love you so much Lord! We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!


BY: CURTIS MORRIS

"Freely and Lightly"

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Matthew 11:28-30


I took weight lifting when I was in high school and one of the most effective exercises to whip you into great shape is the beloved squat. You place weights on each side of the bar, step up to the squat rack, get your stance ready, lift the weight onto your shoulders, and squat into a seated position to execute the exercise. It requires many muscles to work together to get the job done, and many times the goal is to lift as much weight as your body can physically handle. Once the exercise is complete and the bar is placed back in the holders, the sense of relief that comes with the weight being lifted off your shoulders is immediate and you almost feel like you're floating.


Do you ever feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? I know that I sure do. I want everything and everyone to be happy and harmonious, and for things to go perfectly all the time. I often feel responsible for not only my life, but also the lives of others. But Jesus never intended us to live this way. He says his "yoke is easy and his burden is light." His yoke is easy because the only requirement he has is that we have faith and trust in him. We just need to accept the invitation to walk in the freedom he promises. We do not have to earn or work for salvation, because it is by grace we have been saved. He already took care of the heavy lifting when he died on the cross for all of our sins and rose again! Trying to operate out of our own effort and strength leads to complete exhaustion-- that's why he promises us rest for our souls when we lay our worries down at his feet. Once we cast all our cares on him, we get to breathe easy and exhale, much like the feeling after racking the weights after a taxing workout.


The Message version of the Bible captures the essence of this scripture beautifully: 

"Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
- Matthew 11:28-30


Let us never forget that Jesus carried the cross that paid the price for our freedom on His shoulders all the way to Calvary after being beaten and scourged, so he most certainly can carry your burdens too. When you are feeling overwhelmed and responsible for the stresses of life, remember that God loves you so much that He sent His one and only Son for you, and his desire is for you to live freely and lightly.

-Are there any burdens you are carrying right now that you need to cast onto the Lord? Finances? Relationships? Control? Fear? People pleasing?

- How would you feel if these burdens were lifted from your shoulders?

- How would your life look different than it does right now?


Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to save us so that we may live free. If there are any burdens or worries that have been stealing our joy or weighing us down I ask that you would remove them in the name of Jesus. May we fully rely on You and your strength to take away any fears or burdens that we were never meant to carry in the first place. We love you so much God, and we pray all these things in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen!


BY: CHELSEA ROBERTS

Living In The New

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"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with it's practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. "

Colossians 3:9-10

Death is a strange thing. One moment a person is alive, the next they are gone. Loved ones mourn and wrestle with the idea that the person they loved is no longer here. They don't always accept it, some refuse to. Yet as time goes on those wounds begin to heal. As God starts moving and helps us to let go, we start reaching a point where it gets easier to breathe. Life begins to move forward...However, this isn't the case for everyone. 

There are moments where we mourn once again. Finding our loved ones belongings that were left behind or seeing an old photo can reopen those wounds. We relive those memories, but there is now something missing. What once satisfied no longer does. The previous verses in Colossians go over the importance of pursuing holiness and how it starts by putting to death whatever is in our human nature to do. In this section of scripture above, we talk about the practice of putting on the new self and taking off the old self. 

The moment that you accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and invited him to live within you, there was LIFE. But what we also seem to forget or not put importance on is that there is also always a DEATH.

In this passage Paul does not tell the church of Colossae "If  you take off your old self and If you feel like putting on you new self..." No. Paul states, "since you have  taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self..." He does not leave room for interpretation. It was and is expected of all who follow Christ to take of their old selves.

Why?
Because your old self has DIED. 

With this new year starting off, I know that we are all in the same boat of having New Years resolutions of having goals that we want to accomplish. We are striving for a better life or something different that what we once had. We want something new and exciting! A new body or new dreams! This is a wonderful thing to want. Newness. Restoration. Healing. What I have found that happens in all our lives, however is that we don't always put to death our old ways. We year to move forward with our lives, yet continue to live in the comfort of our earthly desires and wants. 

The reality is that: because we are human, it is very difficult for us to allow things to die. So instead of allowing our old self to pass away, we start wearing our old self like a coat. We hoard all of our old habits and character traits because we are afraid of being vulnerable or exposed without them. So we store them away for a while, and bring them back whenever we feel like being "comfortable again. See the problem?

2 Corinthians 5:17 states:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (NLT)

A new life has begun.

So why are you still living your old one?

There is a call placed on all of our hearts as children of God. A call not only to have a new heart but to maintain that heart. David cried out to God, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Even David, a man after God's own heart messed up. But he teaches us that God will always be the God of mercy and grace. God will always be ready for us to turn away from the old and start living the new. And that is a beautiful thing. My challenge to you this morning is to ask yourself the following:

  • "What are some old habits or ways that I am struggling to let go of?"
  • "Is there something or someone hindering me from growing closer to God?"
  • "Write down a few reasons why you feel you cannot let go of your old self. Is it fear? Insecurity? Stubbornness?"
  • "What are some steps you can take to put to death your old self, and renew your mind to live in your new self?"

Our Father wants us to have new life, new goals, new dreams. He created us to be that way and desire those things! We have be willing to take of our old self and put on the new self however in order to fully glean what God has in store for us. 

Prayer

God, I thank you for who you are. I thank you for sending your son to die for my sins so that I may have new life. I thank you for allowing me to be a new creation in Christ. For clothing me in new clothes, and for making me white as snow. God I ask that you open my eyes to the pieces of my old life that are trying to remain. I pray that you search me Lord and know my heart, that you test me and know my anxious thoughts, and that you remove from me those pieces of sinful flesh that are dug in so deep. Lead me in the way everlasting Lord and rescue me from myself. I pray for patience Lord, endurance, an overall please as I go through this process. Let my life be a reflection of you and all you are. To you be the glory Lord. Amen. 

BY: SIAM ORTIZ

"Practice Hospitality"

 Index-journal, Greenwood, S.C. 

Index-journal, Greenwood, S.C. 

"Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." 
Romans 12:13

Maybe you've seen the article swirling around; 'NFL's Josh Norman Sharing His Blessing with SC Churches.'  But, perhaps you haven't yet, let me recap; Josh Norman is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, he plays with the Redskins, but he wasn't always one of the top guys.  Despite not having 1 scholarship opportunity coming out of high school, Josh Norman worked his butt off to land a spot playing for Costal Carolina where he would eventually end up in the NFL with the Panthers before being traded to the Redskins.  None-the-less, last week Josh Norman took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper of his hometown (Greenwood, SC) asking churches to write him a letter.  His letter asked each church to respond with 'the concerns of the church and the needs of the youth.'  Josh went on to say, 'God has laid it on my heart as a servant of the crown to reach out and touch every church in Greenwood, SC with my tithes and offering of love and peace.  It is my wish that everyone in your place of worship be touched by this blessing that I've been blessed by and now giving unto you."

So, I want to ask you; what has God blessed in your life that you can use to bless others?  God calls us to serve each other and in doing so, we will be blessed.  In the whirlwind we call 'life' sometimes it's easy to become so distracted by our circumstances and forget the abundant life that comes from being obedient with what has been given unto us.  God wants your heart and wants to have a close relationship with you, so if you are in a place seeking to grow closer in your walk just take a look at a few of the many instructions God gives us:

'Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.'
Luke 6: 38
'Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.'
1 Peter 4: 10
'A man reaps what he sows.'
Galatians 6: 7
'Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'
Matthew 20: 28

As we enter the holiday season, be encouraged to look at what God has done in your life and ask yourself 'How can I bless others with this?"  God has a wonderful plan for your life and it starts by putting your faith and resources in His hands.

PS: Josh Norman also gave $100,000 to Puerto Rico relief efforts in September 2017 to help with the destruction caused from Hurricane Maria.

Prayer

God, we praise, worship, and rejoice in the many blessings that you have bestowed upon us, thank you for all that we have.  Father, give us the strength and discernment to use these gifts to bless those you place before us. Allow us to grow closer to you by our obedience in serving others the way your Son served and sacrificed for us. Amen.

BY: TRAVIS CAREY

Who Are You Serving?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
— Colossians 3:23-24

There is something quite interesting about the heart. We talk about the heart at times as if it were a friend or a guide. We say to others how much our heart hurts to see someone in pain, or how we felt it in our hearts to pray for a family member. The heart is "active". The heart makes decisions, it feels, it has motives.

A motive is a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or secret, and when the heart is involved, motive is everything. One thing that we sometimes fail to grasp in our world today is that God cares about what you do in secret and your motives more than what you do outwardly. Hear my heart today. Doing good things outwardly is not wrong, in fact we are called to love others, to serve others, to encourage others etc. It is when the motive of our heart is tainted, and we crave praise from people that we should check ourselves. 

So when Paul is telling the people of Colossae that they need to work at everything as if working for the Lord and not for human masters, he is challenging them to really look inwardly and check where their heart is at. Paul knew the human condition. He understood that people did works of service or righteousness outwardly only to get a fleeting reward in the form of applause or praise. We are all prone to this condition whether we admit to it or not. Everyone craves to be seen, but sometimes we crave to be seen by the wrong master.

Jesus spoke about it in Matthew 6:1

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. (MSG)

Can you think of an area in your life where you are putting on a performance only to get praise from others? Write it down.

____________________________________________________________
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God ultimately wants us all to see that our work and how we live our lives is ultimately a  sign of praise and worship for Him. After all, without Him, we would have nothing. Our careers, our jobs, our life, all of these are gifts that he has lavished upon us. Nothing is ours to keep so we should be servingwholeheartedly because He gave everything to us. It is not people that we should be making proud, it is HIM, our Master in heaven. That begins by giving yourself a good heart check and checking your motives. Are you working hard to please Him, or are you doing it for all the wrong reasons? I challenge us all to start being more aware of the things we do, and the reasons we do them, for if it is not to give Him glory, we may need to reevaluate why we began doing those things in the first place.

If you are struggling with this today, take heart and be encouraged. You are not alone. The great news is that God knows it, sees it, and will meet you where you are at! You only need to welcome Him in and ask him to help you.


Prayer

God, I thank You for all of the blessings You have given me. For all of the opportunities that You have presented. For all of the gifts. Lord I pray today that you give me the ability to discern the motives of my heart. I pray Lord that no matter what, I remember that everything I do should be to give you glory. Everything I do should be done with a heart of love as if I was working for YOU, no one else. God I thank You for you grace and mercy, and for meeting me right where I am at. God give me the wisdom and strength to be obedient and to work hard for You, not for man. Thank You for who You are Lord, I am honored to be your child and to have a loving caring father like You. Allow me to walk with you all the days of my life. Amen.

BY: SIAM ORTIZ

America's Biggest Idol

Let’s face it, fall is the best season of the year. There is something about the leaves changing color and the specific smell that fills the air only in October it seems like. Meanwhile, people are going berserk over Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, that TV series starting back up again, and we all have that one friend who is reminding us the exact number of days until Christmas is here. However, there is one specific thing about Fall that people crave more than anything else. In fact, 2/3rds of Americans indulge themselves in this on a weekly basis, usually for 2-4 days of the week and of the top 35 watched Fall TV shows in America this sport alone was 34 of them, That is crazy!!! The sport of football has the hearts of Americans captured. There is no other sport where you can plaster yourself onto your leather couch and watch football from 11am to 9pm on both Saturday and Sunday. It doesn’t even matter if it’s the Jets and 49ers, people are glued to the TV. Not only that, but there’s an app where you can make your own team of players and it provides an even bigger incentive to watch all the games throughout the week.

Every year, I find that Fall is the most trying time for me in my faith. There are so many people, myself included that can easily fall into the trap of football. There is nothing wrong with the sport of football, but the problem is when we crave football in our hearts more than the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, football is the biggest idol in the United States during this time and with the recent controversies surrounding the sport there is a spotlight on it now more than ever. So as followers of Christ how do we properly handle this?

1)     Take some time to examine your heart.

This is one of the healthiest steps you can take DAILY as a follower of Christ. Search in the depths for anything that may be taking your attention away from Him.

2)     Psalm 16:11 says, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more.”

Ask yourself if your heart is searching for the fullness of joy that only Christ can give you? Remember when the Broncos won the Super Bowl 2 seasons ago; are you still celebrating that victory? Absolutely not! That’s why Patriots fans are some of the most miserable people on earth, because their Super Bowl trophies don’t fulfill their joy outside of that moment when they won them (I just had to throw that in there). But it’s true!

3)     If you find yourself, focused more on football (or any other idol) than the Lord, come to a place of repentance in your heart.

How I like to do this is by getting on my hands and knees and start telling the Lord how deeply sorry I am for putting something before him and ask for his forgiveness.

4)     Make the decision this weekend not to indulge in football.

Start by waking up, reading his word and spending time in prayer. Church>>> Jets vs 49ers… Go to church!!! Watch the Broncos game and then spend time with family or friends instead of watching the Sunday night game.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for giving your precious life so that we may live in freedom for eternity! Today, we choose to serve and honor you above all things including football. And as we do this, Lord, would you be so gracious to give us understanding of the depths of your love and joy. You are a good, good Father and we can’t possibly thank you or repay you enough for that! We pray this in the mighty name of Jesus! Amen.

BY: CURTIS MORRIS

Life Is Like A Game of Dodgeball

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater
than he who is in the world.
— 1 John 4:4

Life is a lot like the game of Dodgeball. We're all familiar with the classic gym class game where balls are lined up in the center of the room, and two opposing teams go head-to- head by hurling balls at one another until there is only one person left standing. The game is simple, if you get hit by a ball you are out. 

Do you ever feel like the enemy is throwing things at you left and right and you are just trying to dodge your way through life? Spiritual warfare is a very real thing and our circumstances can often add to the mix, but because of Jesus we have already won the battle!

In dodgeball there is another way you can win besides just trying to avoid getting hit by the ball. You can catch the ball that is thrown at you! If you catch the ball, the opponent that threw the ball is out and you can continue throwing to win the game. The same goes for us in life with Christ! We have the ability to receive His love, and play offense by declaring God's truth and promises over our lives to combat the enemy's lies.

In Jesus, we no longer have to live on the defensive because "...being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Phillipians 2:8 When negative thoughts or lies are thrown at us from our adversary, the Devil, we can squash them with the very Word of God, which is sharper than any double-edged sword. He died for us not only to save us and give us Heaven forever, but so that we may walk in complete freedom and confidence that He will protect and provide, which is available to us RIGHT NOW!

So the next time you feel like you are dodging the troubles of this world, remember that in the Bible you have all the tools you could ever need to fight the lies of the enemy, and the Most Valuable Player, King Jesus, is already on your team!

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1) Do you feel like you are playing offense or defense in life right now?

2) Are there any lies in your life that you are believing? If so, take some time to ask God
what He thinks of you!

3) Read Colossians 1:11-14 and be encouraged!
 

PRAYER
 

Heavenly Father,  thank you for laying your life down for us and saving us by dying on a cross. We thank you that you defeated the grave so that we may have abundant life in You. Help us to call upon your Great Name with confidence and lean on you through the trials as well as
the joys of life. We love you so much Jesus! Amen!

BY: CHELSEA ROBERTS

Life's Not Always A Brees

One of the best high school quarterbacks the state of Texas has ever seen.  If you know anything about Texas high school football, you know this means you're in the company of some pretty elite competitors.  Throughout high school he was recruited by some of the biggest names in college football, until a major injury; torn ACL, requiring reconstructive surgery.  Bye-bye recruiters, bye-bye college football career and perhaps even finishing up his senior season of high school.  Well, not really, he had a little more success than that...  

 

It was at the age of 17 that Drew Brees accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  A decision made one Sunday at a church in Texas.  On that day, Drew decided he would live for a greater purpose, he was giving the wheel to God, knowing that he wasn't always going to understand why things happen, but knowing that God is in control and he could trust that the Lord will make his path straight.     

 

Some recruiters came back after Brees went 16-0 his senior season and led his high school football team to a state championship.  Ultimately, Brees went to Purdue where he had a great career.  Things were looking up after the knee injury and wondering if he could ever make football a part of his life again.  Selected 32nd overall in the 2001 NFL draft, Brees had made it to play with the San Diego Chargers.  It wasn't long and he earned a starting role as the Chargers QB.  

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All that climbing after his 11th grade injury and Brees had finally made it.  That is until a horrible shoulder dislocation came in 2003 that put everything back in question...a bad dislocation in his shoulder joint and a 360-degree tear of his labrum and rotator cuff; not something you see NFL quarterbacks ever return from, or really any athlete that throws a ball.  It wasn't long and the Chargers traded Brees, knowing there were many question-marks on whether he could return from such an injury.  

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Perhaps you've heard the Drew Brees story, or maybe this is your first time, but to know the story and to understand how Brees trusted in the Lord through all these times are two very different things.  Every doctor that worked on his shoulder was stunned and couldn't understand how Brees could return so soon and have such an amazing career.  Not only did Brees become a starting QB again, but he led the NFL in passing yards year-after-year.  He also won a Superbowl with the Saints, became an MVP of that same Superbowl, brought home a few NFL offensive player-of-the-year awards, and countless other honors.  

The injuries that Drew has faced have led him to where he is; a devoted husband, father, teammate, but most importantly; servant to his Savior.  Each circumstance that he faced has allowed him to see God work in amazing ways, after Brees gave the Lord the wheel.  Because of his high school injury, Brees went to Purdue University which is where he met his future wife.  After suffering the horrible injury in San Diego, he found himself in New Orleans, where he became a father of 4 and has been an active and contributing member to many communities in need.  In 2003 The Brees Dream Foundation was set-up and since has contributed and/or committed almost $25,000,000.00 to help improve the quality of life for cancer patients and provide care, education and opportunities for children and families in need.  When asked about his journey, Bees has been quoted saying, "Understand, there's always a plan." 

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Whatever your ACL or Shoulder injury might be, know that God is using it because He has bigger and better plans for you than you have for yourself.  In the hardest times, push into the Lord and allow Him to guide you.  We've all heard 'hindsight is 20/20.'  It's not hard to see what God is up to when it's all said and done, but put your faith in knowing that He is leading and guiding you today for His perfect plan.  When faced with a potentially 'career-ending injury' give up your own will or understanding and allow God to do his magic!

 

Prayer

'Father, dissolve my will so that I may grow closer to you and so that you may guide my every step.  Give me peace where I can't understand and the energy to glorify you with every area of my life.  Allow me to face battles but not worry because I know that you are the King of kings.  Thank you for the gifts that you have given me and the people you have surrounded me with.   Amen.'  

By Travis Carey

 

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
-Philippians 4: 7

Slumps Are Beautiful

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes through it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ
— 1 Peter 1:6-7

The Colorado Rockies are off to one of the best starts in franchise history and there is no doubt that the city is buzzing with hope and anticipation of the first Rocktober in 8 years. The pitching staff has significantly improved from previous years and players like Charlie Blackmon and Mark Reynolds are mashing the ball right now. The team's success however does not cover up that a specific Rockie is going through the biggest slump of his career. The emergence of Trevor Story resurrected Rockies fans back to life last year and there is no doubt that expectations are high for him this year. Through the first third of the season Trevor is batting an atrocious .197 and you can hear frustration in the crowd after every swing and miss. There is obvious frustration coming from both parties and I am sure that there are daily battles about this going on in Trevor's head. Shouldn't Trevor Story quit baseball and find another profession because he is going through the roughest part of his career? That would be absurd; this is part of baseball and every player goes through them.                          

 Credit: Ron Chenoy- USA Today Sports

Credit: Ron Chenoy- USA Today Sports

The human nature is to change direction or look for the alternative when we experience trials and tough seasons. For ALL OF US we experience times like this in our jobs, marriage, sports, and especially our faith. Our first reaction and solution to a trail is so often change, but what it really should be is perseverance. In 1 Peter 1:6-7, it explains that trials are essential to building a stronger faith. As we push through and persevere through these trials the fire consumes the parts of our faith that hold us back from experiencing the fullness of Christ. Romans 5:3-5 tells us that through this process we are sanctified. "..suffereing produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit." Slumps are a beautiful process but ONLY if we persevere through them. If we decide to look for the next alternative instead of persevering, the parts of our faith that are holding us back from the Lord will never be addressed and we will become stale in our faith and confused to why we aren't as close to God. If you trust in the process of perseverance you will find a level of love, joy, and a peace in our Lord that you have never experienced before and it is one of the most beautiful things we can experience.

 Credit: Ron Chenoy- USA Today Sports

Credit: Ron Chenoy- USA Today Sports

    Trevor Story will become a better baseball player because of this slump. This is essential to his growth as a professional and it will be a defining part of his career. Watch as he grows and matures the next month and then for the last half or third of the season he will be playing at an all-star level. If we trust in the process of perseverance, slumps are beautiful.

 

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the gift of this life and for the sacrifice your Son made on the cross so that we may live in victory. Lord, would you strengthen and encourage us through these times of trials so we won't grow weary but instead become more like you. As we persevere, show us your beauty and glory - draw us near to you Lord! We love you so much and it's in the powerful name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

By Curtis Morris

God Gives Mulligans!

 

          Just the other day I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me through a game of tennis with my Daddy. I overshot my first serve and undershot my second serve, hitting
the ball straight into the net. Accepting the fact that I had lost that point, I started
walking to the other side of the court, but then my Dad said, "You can use your
mulligan for that one if you want!"A mulligan is a free shot sometimes given in
informal play when the previous shot was poorly played-it is a second chance. 
The term, mulligan is generally used in golf, but my Dad has given me mulligans
all throughout my life in every sport we've played together.

          I was overcome with gratitude when I heard those words of grace come out of his
mouth. I thought that since I was grown and my Dad fully knows my athletic
ability and potential that I would no longer qualify for a mulligan. This reminded
me that I often think that because I have been a believer for many years, I should
be better at not sinning and seriously disappoint myself when I do. God used this
situation to remind me that He is always willing to give me a mulligan-a do-over, 
a second chance-when I fail to measure up. Just as my earthly Father gave me
a mulligan in our tennis game because he loves me, my Heavenly Father does
the same in life.

          I accepted the mulligan that was extended to me and went on to win that game. 
This tennis match taught me that we are never disqualified to receive a mulligan
from our Savior. He wipes our slates clean even when we don't deserve it. No
matter how many times I mess up, God still gives me a mulligan, and He does
the same for you! What an incredible, merciful God we serve! 
   

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 1. Can you think of a time recently where you were given a second chance
when you didn't feel deserving of it?

2. Do you ever feel like you don't qualify for yet another mulligan? Why?


      PRAYER

Father,
You are gracious, kind, and the giver of second chances! Thank you that we
qualify for mulligans because of your Son, Jesus! Our desire is to be more like you, and we are grateful that you show us grace when we fall short. Thank you for never giving up on us and for giving us the opportunity to be walking testimonies of your great love. I love you, Jesus! In your precious and mighty name. Amen.

By Chelsea Roberts

The Invitation

I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders - an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out
— Luke 5:32 (The Message)
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When I was in college, my basketball coach would extend opportunities for my teammates to engage in weekly optional-devotionals. He was a faithful man of God and respected by many. At the time, all but about two of my teammates would respectfully decline these meetings due to more attractive alternatives and at 18 years old, I was part of the majority. It wasn't until one day after practice my freshman year when my coach approached me with an invitation to attend the devotion that evening. Caught off guard, I questioned what really compelled him to ask me, though I decided I would make an appearance. After sitting in on this discussion about God, questions began to stir in my head that would develop and compile over the remaining years as an athlete on this team.

coach approached me with an invitation to attend the devotion that evening. Caught off guard, I questioned what really compelled him to ask me, though I decided I would make an appearance. After sitting in on this discussion about God, questions began to stir in my head that would develop and compile over the remaining years as an athlete on this team.

Although it was a series of events that led me down the road I walk today, I always look back to the day in the locker room when my coach planted that seed of hope. Apart from all else was one individual who saw something greater in me that I didn't even see in myself and the willingness he demonstrated was one that would radically change my life, all because of one simple invitation.

Sometimes we don't realize the impact we have on the people around us, or the power within us that can change lives when we choose to utilize it. It is equally important to understand that "no" sometimes only means no for a particular season in ones life. Patience and perseverance can be just as valuable as the invite. 

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1. Has there ever been a time when you were invited somewhere that conclusively changed your life?

2. Who can you think of in your life that would benefit from an invitation into this sports ministry?

3. What's holding you back?

PRAYER
Lord, present us with opportunities to invite people and empower our hearts with an intentional spirit. Grant us the joy, patience, and perseverance it takes to change lives, allowing us to be used for your good and perfect will. Amen.

By Jennelle Overfield

Aerodynamic Faith

...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scoring its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God
— Hebrews 12:1-2

Ever watch the Tour De France time-trial or Michael Phelps during an Olympic swim competition?  What do they have in common?? Aerodynamics.  Let me explain; the odd shaped helmet of a cyclist trying to get the best time possible, or the swim cap that a top swimmer wears to ensure nothing decreases their time by even 1 one-hundredth of a second.  These are 2 examples of athletes that take every opportunity to strip away EVERYTHING that could possibly stand in their way of performing at their absolute best, even minimizing the effect that air, or the hairs on their head, could have.    

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In our journey, God calls us to throw off EVERYTHING that hinders our ability to run the race.  It's more difficult now than ever before; our world is filled with the coolest iPhones, flat screen TVs that practically make sitting in your living room a better experience than at the 50-yd line, or Sirius XM; no need to even drive your car without the latest music, news updates, or comedians.

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So, what am I talking about here?  I'm talking about getting Aerodynamic in your walk.  One of my favorite quotes, if Satan can't make you bad, he'll make you busy, is a great reminder that when you're distracted with everything not God then you don't have any time for God .

Like a cyclists helmet or the swim cap of an Olympian, I encourage you, today, to find hurdles in your life that trip you up while you're running the race God has placed before you.   

 
PRAYER
 Father, we love you and we love growing closer to you every day.   Give us the wisdom to recognize the things in our life that take us away from you and the strength to throw out that which hinders us from running the race.  We know that you are all that we need.  We thank you for our brothers and sisters and pray for them to grow in the fruits of your blessings.  In your son's name, Amen.     

By Travis Carey