Archive for March, 2012

Forgiving Others Who Do Wrong

Posted: March 31, 2012 by Ricky Keeler in NBA

(Photo Credit: UPI/NY Post)

Throughout the course of the Linsanity stage in New York City, one story exemplified how the whole backstory of Knicks’ point guard Jeremy Lin was seen in New York City. Over a month ago, after New York’s loss to the New Orleans Hornets, ESPN.com posted an article that got the whole nation stirred up.

The writer’s name was Anthony Federico. The editor posted “Chink In The Armor” to refer to New York’s loss and was later suspended by ESPN. Federico apologized after the comment and said he had no racial intention in mind. Federico was later re-hired by ESPN. You would think Lin and his family would be furious after that. Well, if that was your mindset, then you are sadly mistaken.

I was reading an article on Yahoo Sports this week and found something very amazing. Lin took time out of his busy schedule with the Knicks and emailed him asking to have lunch with him. Below is the excerpt from the article that Federico gave about the get together:

“The fact that he reached out to me,” Federico said. “The fact that he took the time to meet with me in his insanely busy schedule … He’s just a wonderful, humble person. He didn’t have to do that, especially after everything had kind of died down for the most part.

“We talked more about matters of faith [and] reconciliation. We talked about our shared Christian values and what we’re both trying do with this situation . We didn’t talk about the headline for more than three minutes.”

Sometimes, it is not easy for us to forgive other people. We may feel totally offended about what someone says about us or hold a grudge over being bullied, harassed, etc. Revenge could be on an individual’s mindset when that happens. However, as Christians, we need to take a look at what our Lord and Savior would do in this situation.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus shows us this scenario. He tells one of His famous parables to His disciple Peter. In this passage, the Lord wants us to settle disputes with our brothers and sisters and not to hold grudges. Take a look at the passage:

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. (Matthew 18:21-23)

Today, I exhort you to follow the example of our Lord, who even while on the cross, asked God to forgive the people who crucified Him because they had no idea they were actually fulfilling the plan for our SALVATION! (Luke 23). I know, personally, it is tough for me to forgive others who do wrong to me because my feelings can be severely hurt. But, that is where prayer and the strength from the Holy Spirit can lead us into saying these three simple words:  “I Forgive You”

It is so hard for us to do sometimes, but, for me, it is so awe-inspiring to imagine how easy it is for the Lord to forgive our constant wrongdoings.  Sometimes, we have to make that sacrifice just as Jesus did for us when He sacrified His life on the cross. Jesus paid that penalty so that you and I can come to the cross in faith and have mercy freely given to us by the Father!

Even when we violate simple commandments the Lord has given us, God is right there ready for us to turn to Him and welcome us back home. So, why can’t we be like that and welcome our brothers and sisters back into our life?

The Apostle Paul gives us that exhortation in his epistle to the people of Colosse:

“And, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)

In fact, one of the more important evidences of salvation is forgiveness. When we recite the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He tells them “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”(Matthew 6:15). It is a difficult task sometimes, but I also exhort you to make that sacrifice and forgive others who have treated you wrong. Show them the way to salvation and help them to walk in the ways of the Lord rather than hold a grudge against them!

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This post comes from our newest blogger, Wes Baldwin!

(Photo Credit: Riley Shaaber/FSView - FSUNews.com)

He was listed as one of the top 30 basketball players in the nation out of the 2006 high school class. His name was right there with guys like Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Ty Lawson, Thaddeus Young and several others that were top draft picks in the NBA. But this guy’s path didn’t quite go as planned. His plan of playing for a major college, getting drafted and playing in the NBA turned into  spending a year in the Broward County jail in Florida. He had so much talent, so much height and strength, a five star status, but he started breaking team rules, facing frequent game suspensions, and then eventually found himself handcuffed in the back of a police car, after being arrested for possession of cocaine and marijuana. All that talent, all the hype, his scholarship to Florida State, all his dreams……down the drain. But, not so fast, Jon Kreft, says it’s that experience that has shaped him into the man he is today.

Kreft sat in that jail and realized something had to change; he couldn’t let his life amount to nothing. While he was in jail, he got a call from Greg Heiar, who was the head coach at Chipola Junior College, in Marianna, Florida at the time. Heiar told Kreft that Chipola wanted him, but things were going to change. He would be required to check in with the coach daily with no exceptions. He was to attend every single class, take notes, take part in classroom discussions and achieve great grades…..average wouldn’t cut it. He would have absolutely no involvement with drugs, alcohol or any kind of illegal substance. Also, he would do things Heiar’s way on the basketball court. No more showing off, but he would learn how to play team ball, and if he didn’t …..he’d be asked to leave. Kreft jumped at the opportunity and ended up turning around his life at Chipola. Kreft formed a deep connection with Heiar, as he became his accountability partner.

Kreft ended up being a great player at Chipola and a great student. His determination and hard work paid off, as he was offered another scholarship at Florida State, where he has played the last two years as a key player off the bench. Kreft says if it had not been for Greg Heiar believing in him and giving him a second chance, he would probably be back in prison, or possibly even dead.

Kreft’s story reminds me so much of the Apostle Paul’s story told in Acts 9. Paul (Saul at the time) had been living a life of persecuting Christians for their faith. That was before he was blinded by a light on his way to Damascus. His life was turned upside down. He now had a calling from the Lord, to take up the very cause he had been persecuting people. People from both sides now didn’t trust him, Even the disciples didn’t believe he was telling the truth  and they were afraid of him. But Saul had a man named Barnabas stand up for him.

Acts 9:27 says: “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.”

This was the beginning of a powerful mentoring relationship that existed between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas became Paul’s defender, motivator, encourager, and friend. Although, they later had a conflict over who to take with them on a missionary journey, it doesn’t take away from the fact that in a lot of ways, Paul wouldn’t have become the man he did, if God had not placed Barnabas in his life.

Paul and Jon Kreft both had to deal with naysayers. Having to deal with people refer to you as a hypocrite and murderer or a druggie and a waste of talent. Luckily these guys both had men who saw something in them, who invested their lives in these men, didn’t give up on them, and helped these men achieve lives worthy of living.

So ask yourself: Are you someone’s Jon Kreft or Greg Heiar?

The Attitude Of An Athlete (Part 2)

Posted: March 26, 2012 by Ricky Keeler in Sports Devotionals

This post features the second part of our Attitude Of An Athlete by our guest writer, George Ippolito from Life In Christ Ministries:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1Cor 9:24-27)

In The Attitude of an Athlete Part 1 we started to consider Paul’s exhortation to the church of Corinth at the end of 1st Corinthians chapter nine. It is there that the Apostle exhorts the church to exhibit certain attitudes, or characteristics, that are typically found in the athlete.

The first characteristic we considered was that the athlete plays to win; today we’ll consider the attitude found in verse 25 where Paul writes, “everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”

The athlete must be temperate.

The word temperate means moderate, self-restrained, someone who is not indulgent. This is an expected characteristic of athlete in top physical condition. Those who participated in the Roman games would train for months leading up to their participation in the events. Part of their training would require that they not eat as much as they might have wanted, or go where they wanted to go, they had to be temperate. They had to get the proper amount of sleep, continue to physically prepare, and undergo sport specific training, even when they didn’t feel like it. They were, in essence, focused on a goal and all of the other things that would pull them away from that goal needed to be removed.

Do you see any parallels to the Christian life in that?

They were focused on a goal and they didn’t want anything to interrupt that pursuit. They would have to deny themselves from certain things, discipline themselves and keep in mind the goal to which they were running.

What was the prize?

A pine wreath placed on their head…

That’s why Paul writes, “Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25).

On the other hand, the Christian’s reward is not temporary… it’s eternal, a crown… imperishable.

How do you get there?

Well, one of the key components is to make sure you’re temperate.

Remember, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control, and to be temperate requires self-control.

This is an important Biblical topic.

  • Paul included it when speaking to Felix and his wife Druscilla concerning faith in Christ. The first time the word “self-control” is used in the New Testament is in Acts 24:25 during that dialogue. The Scripture says that Paul “reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come”. As for Felix’s response… “he was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you’.”
  • It is a requirement for a pastor/overseer. 1 Timothy 3:2 says that “a pastor must be… temperate.”
  • The lack of this fruit characterizes the wickedness of the last days. In 2 Timothy 3:1-4 he says that perilous times will come in the last days and that men will be… “without self-control”…. and… “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”.

How are you doing with being “temperate in all things”?

Is the fruit of self-control one that characterizes your life? Is it missing? Or, is it present in some areas, but seemingly not so much in others?

What areas of your life need greater self-control?

  • Do you need to exert greater self-control when it comes to how you use your time? Do you need to exert greater control over your enjoyment of entertainment? Video games? Internet?
  • Do you need to show greater self-control in your relationships? In what you say? With whom you spend time? How you act around, or with, the opposite sex?
  • Do you need to exert self-control over laziness? Prayerlessness? Inordinate busyness?

The LORD Changes Our Culture

Posted: March 23, 2012 by Ricky Keeler in NFL

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Tebowmania is now in the Empire State! That’s right! On Wednesday night, quarterback Tim Tebow was traded to a new team, the New York Jets. The trade sends a 4th round and a 6th round pick to the Denver Broncos, although we will not see an official press conference until Monday. Even though I am a New England Patriots’ fan, I always cheer for Tim Tebow and I still will do that because as Christians, we have to support our fellow brother in Christ.

Head coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum have insisted repeatedly that Mark Sanchez will be the starting quarterback when the season begins in 2012. As for Tebow, well he will be the backup and be part of a special Wildcat package that offensive coordinator Tony Sparano ran when he was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. However, there’s a report in today’s New York Daily News that Tebow thinks he has a clear path to become the starter, which I think he will be by the time the 2012 season is over.

I was stunned when I heard that Tebow chose to go to the big city rather than go home to Jacksonville. But, then I thought to myself, maybe he does not care that much about going back home. Instead, you have to think about it more narrowly from an off-the-field perspective. The opportunity to spread the Gospel in one of the largest cities in the world is something that he could not pass up, especially when his goal in life is to bring people to Christ.

Think about where the Jets stand today. This is a team that last year finished 8-8 by losing its last three games. The locker room has been divided with the sole issue surrounding Sanchez and his number one wide receiver, Santonio Holmes. Their head coach, Rex Ryan admittedly lost control of the locker room and they are a team that cries Super Bowl, but they never seem to make it there. You have to think with all the rambunctious characters in that locker room (Holmes, Darelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie) that maybe it is time for a little change.

Now, in God’s eyes, everyone is a sinner and we cannot be saved unless we believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. While on this earth, Jesus showed what his true purpose on the Earth was and that was to bring sinners to Him. As the story broke that the Jets were interested in Tebow on Monday night, I thought back to Jesus’ calling of Matthew in the Gospel of Matthew.

The context of the story comes from a group in Christ’s time called the Pharisees who taught that the Law was the only way to salvation and if you were any bit of a sinner, you are condemned in God’s eyes. The people in Galilee and the surrounding areas were waiting for the Messiah to come to redeem them both spiritually and from the Jewish authorities and Roman Empire.

In this story, Jesus reclines at Matthew’s house, who is deemed a bad person in society because of his job as a tax collector. The Pharisees view him as unclean because of this. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11).

This led Jesus to show what his true mission was on the Earth and how He shows great mercy to all of us sinners. But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)

When we come to Christ, we need that culture change! The LORD takes our old life and changes us into a person that’s sole purpose on Earth is to serve HIM! In biblical times, particularly in Old Testament times, we see that sacrifice is not the de facto way to please God, but it’s the meaning behind the sacrificethat is seen in God’s eyes. (ex: Cain and Abel – Genesis  4)

Am I suggesting that Tim Tebow is going to save the Jets in the same way? No, not at all! What I am saying is that I praise God that Tebow may look at Jesus as an example of how we can change the culture of people’s lives and show them that the Lord is the only way to eternal life.

I live in New York and I am glad that Tim Tebow is here and the next few months should be great to see the impact he has both on the field and in the New York community as well.

Today, I exhort you to reach out to a friend and try to show them how Jesus changed the culture of your life. I pray today that I can do the same for somebody because especially in New York or anywhere around the world, there is that temptation to just keep Jesus to ourselves. No, we need to share the love of Christ with everyone around us! There will be people that think they do enough good deeds for heaven, but the lost will be found when they look to the cross!

Selection Sunday: Punching Your Ticket to Heaven

Posted: March 11, 2012 by Ricky Keeler in College Basketball

 

Today is one of my favorite days on the sports calendar. It is Selection Sunday! Today, the field of 68 basketball teams will be decided for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament that begins this Thursday and will crown a champion in New Orleans in early April.

All year long, teams go through a grueling regular season and then a week long conference tournament to ultimately see if their resume stands up in the eyes of the selection committee. Some teams are guaranteed spots via the conference tournament and just wondering if they will get a top seed or a favorable draw. Others are hoping that they flat out make the tourney.

This is what we in the sports world like to call the” Bubble” teams. These teams may some have good qualities on their resume, but they also have that one fatal flaw that may make the committee hesitant. For example, a team might have some great wins and a good RPI number, but they also may have a bad loss that sticks out amongst the rest.

As I think about Selection Sunday, I can’t help but think about the Lord Jesus Christ. You may be asking why I make that comparison. Well, I look at Jesus and I see Him as the Head of the Selection Committee. He ultimately holds the Book of Life in His hands! That is what John tells us in the Book of Revelation.

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” (Revelation 20:12)

To continue on about the final judgment and what ultimately will happen before the Throne, Jesus gives us a picture of this in the Gospel of Matthew:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.” (Matthew 25:31-33)

In this scenario, Jesus talks about how the King will differentiate the sheep from the goats and how people will inherit the Kingdom.  It says how He was thirsty, but they gave Him something to drink, or He was naked, and they gave Him clothing. Jesus says to the sheep later on: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

If we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will all ultimately make the Big Dance that is Heaven with all our brothers and sisters in Christ! Whether you are of high esteem in the community (#1 seed) or a team struggling to make the tournament, it’s our faith that Jesus is the only way to salvation that allows God to have a place prepared for us by the Father like Jesus told His disciples in the gospel of John.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)

Today, I exhort you as you watch the bracket being announced, to think about your resume on a spiritual level. We can say that we do all these great works and that we are good people, but that is a very bad loss in the Lord’s eyes. The only way we win the ultimate National Championship is the acceptance of Jesus. After that, all of our quality wins go off the table unless we give God all the glory!

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Landen Lucas will be a freshmen at Kansas University in the fall. He has committed to play for the Kansas Jayhawks Men’s Basketball Team. We have heard all about his great athletic skills and will continue to hear about them and see them firsthand. Just check out youtube.com to watch Landen excel on the basketball court. This story is not about his skills but about the most important part of his life, his faith and his walk with Christ.
Landen is from Portland, Oregon and will graduate from Westview High School in May. He just finished his high school basketball career and even tweeted this “Its crazy to think the next time I’ll be playing an official basketball game will be with Kansas!” Not only will KU get a great basketball player but will also get a great young man who strives to be like Jesus.
Landen chose Kansas because of the great coaching staff, the tradition and his opportunity to develop as a player and the chance to play. Watching videos of him score, rebound and defend show why Kansas fans are ready for him to come and continue the winning tradition.

I asked Landen some questions about his walk with Christ and his faith. Here are his answers:

Tell me about your spiritual journey in life:

Landen- I have always had had Christ in my life and I’m following his path to impact others through my talents.

When did you start your journey with Christ?

Landen- Every Sunday going to church ever since I could remember.

Is there someone who instilled your faith in you and who spiritually influences you?

Landen- My mom had a big role in it and so did my pastor. My mom always brings things back to God. Good or bad, and it really has made an impact on me.

Do you ever have to choose between faith and sports growing up and today?

Landen- Yes, just the normal perception of sports players makes it hard to chose what route to take in my spiritual life.

Is it hard to be a Christian and play high school sports?

Landen- Yes expectations make it very hard.

Does your teammates know you are a Christian?

Landen- Yeah I’m sure its pretty clear to them by now.

What church do you go to and are you involved in a youth ministry?

Landen- New Song since I was 3 and when I have time I try and get involved with it.

Has sports challenged your faith?

Landen- Yeah especially during the downs and times it was hard to believe and trust in Him.

Is it hard as a Christian athlete with temptations that are all around you?

Landen- Yes, many are put in front of you when you are in the spotlight and it’s one of the hardest things to resist them.

Are there other teammates who share your faith?

Landen -On my current team there are a few.

Can u tell me about a time where God has really impacted your life?

Landen- When I was out at Findlay away from my family in Vegas it helped a lot to have Him there.

What verse has been the most powerful to you with your walk with Christ and how has it?

Landen – “I can do all things through christ who strengthens me.” I’m never going to get a tattoo but if I did that would be it. It can be put in so many situations.

I have a 10 yr old son who plays basketball-what advice would you give him?

Landen- Stay focused. Don’t go with the crowd, people who arent conforming with the crowd go far on and off the court. An example on the court would be like when I was a kid focusing on rebounding even though everyone was worried about scoring more than anything.

So KU fans everywhere, are you ready for the next KU Superstar that not only will score on the court and rebound every ball but will serve Christ with all of his heart. This 6-10 and 240lb C/PF young man is ready to make it 9 straight Big 12 Championships with the rest of the team next season. So look out for #33 this fall living like Jesus on the KU campus and dominating in the Phog.