Each year during the World Series and the lead up to the Super Bowl, the Christian Broadcasting Network does a featured on participants in the game who claim a relationship with Jesus. It is a highlight for me, because it gives me a chance to share these players’ story and their passion for God in their own words. So as the World Series prepares for Game 4, check out the newest installment from CBN.
I have blogged on this site about several of the featured people. Check out the links below for those posts.
San Francisco Giants -
Kansas City Royals
Enjoy some great baseball and check out the stories of these men that are honoring God with their efforts
Sam Dansby has been a pastor for many years. His ministry has extended beyond pulpit and pews. In 1989, Sam Dansby began an outreach called Bibles and Balls. These sports camps focus on skills as well as bible teaching. One of the youths most greatly influenced by the combination of coaching and bible teaching is Rev. Dansby’s own son Karlos, currently a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns. Drafted in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals out of Auburn, Karlos Dansby has also spent time with the Miami Dolphins before returning to the Cardinals last season. He signed a 4 year deal with the Browns last off-season. As you can read in this story from AL.com, Dansby credits his dad for helping guide him to success in the NFL, and also in following God. Dansby is now offering help to his dad at the Bible and Balls camps that he does each summer – camps that Karlos attended as a youth. He says “It’s part of me. It gave me the opportunity to not only learn the game — basketball and football — it taught me how to put God first in everything I do.”
Dansby has seen God at work in his own life, and in the lives of others, too. A few years back, after Tim Tebow, led the Broncos on a string of miraculous comebacks and wins. One of those wins was against Dansby and the Miami Dolphins. This is what Dansby had to say on the Jim Rome radio show.
“Us losing to Tim Tebow the way we did, we seen it first hand…And for God to show Himself in that game the way He did, through the guy He did it through, it opened a lot of guys’ eyes on our team. And it brought a lot of guys closer to God… my hat goes off to Tim. And God working through him like that”
Here are my takeaways from Dansby’s story
1- God is Glorified in the actions of Those who Love Him – I’m sorry Dallas Cowboys fans, God does not have a favorite team. He doesn’t even have favorite players. But I do believe that He may allow a drive, game or season to happen in certain ways so that He is brought in to the spotlight. During that magical string of wins that the Broncos had, what was the talk? Just like Dansby said, there was something going on that brought God into the spotlight. It was not about what Tebow was doing, it was about an unlikely story developing and people talking about God. I believe that we all have opportunities every day to honor God and draw attention to Him and what He is doing, or to take the spotlight on ourselves, and hide God. How will you live your life? What amazing things is God doing though you? Other people will notice too, and will be forced to decide what they think about God by what they see Him doing in you.
2- Game Skills and Life Skills – Sam Dansby wanted to teach the kids in Birmingham Alabama about sports. But he did not want to stop there. He wanted to teach them about what they would need to succeed in life. He wanted to teach them about God and how a life of faith in the Creator is the most complete life you can lead. So he did both. He taught game skills and paired them with life skills. And God is using him to make a difference in the lives of the kids that come to his camp. God also used the example of a Godly father to influence the life of Karlos Dansby. Now Karlos is doing the same. He is helping with his father’s sports camp because he knows first hand the value of learning EVERYTHING that the camps had to offer. Who has influenced you in your life? Who has taught you about God and the importance of putting Him first? Are you ready to teach others, too, and pour into their lives like those who have put into yours?
3- Sports is the hook, Christ is the draw – Karlos’ father has played a role of coach and mentor to many youth who attend his camps. Sports is the initial draw, something of interest to bring in kids who don’t know much, if anything, about God. But once they are there, God takes over and presents Himself to these camp participants. The message of the Bible is all the truth that the kids need. And sports is the platform. Sports and faith hand in hand is what led to the creation of this blog. God is active in many media to reach his people. What are your interests and how can God use those things to share his message of grace, forgiveness and love to a world that needs to know about Him?
Last week, I wrote about Ryan Broyles, wide receiver for the Detroit Lions. Today, I will feature Broyles’ college teammate and friend Landry Jones. The two teamed up to re-write the record books at Oklahoma. They share a passion for football, for being the best they can be and for impacting their world for the Kingdom of God.
Landry Jones has been immersed in football his whole life. He was even named after legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry. The fourth round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013 was the New Mexico High School player of the year in 2007. He was highly recruited for top college programs and chose Oklahoma. But there was already a star quarterback at OU – Sam Bradford was having a great career and would be hard to displace. Landry found himself on the sidelines for the first time in a long time. And that was not easy for him to take. In came feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and insignificance. But through that experience, God was at work. Jones, a life-long church attender, met the one true God and surrendered his life to Him.
You can learn more about the story in this video from IamSecond.
Landry would not stay on the sidelines for long. During his sophomore year, Bradford battled injuries that eventually ended his season andhis college career. That meant Jones would take over as the starting QB. He would go on, as mentioned, to a record breaking career at Oklahoma and a spot in the NFL. Jones will keep playing as long as God allows, and wants to work as a pastor or chaplain when his playing days are over.
Now, on the Steelers roster, Jones again is waiting for his chance to start, but he is using his place and his influence to share his beliefs about God. One of the most fascinating articles that I found about Landry Jones was this one from outsports.com. In it, we read an exchange that occurs between the interviewer and Jones about gay athletes in the NFL. Jones answers the questions without compromising his beliefs in what the Bible says, nor without offending the interviewer, who at the end of the article calls Jones one of his new favorite players. When asked if there was a conflict between Christians and gays, Jones responded “There is no conflict … People are people and God tells us to love everybody. And so that’s what I do.” The interviewer, not wanting a canned, ready-made response, continued in the conversation and was surprised by what Jones said.
The interviewer adds this thought about his conversation with Jones. “We may not see eye-to-eye on this issue, but that’s not going to affect how he treats me. There was no mention of hell. No mention of sin. No comparison to drug use or robbing a bank. Instead, there was a level of respect in his words.” Here are my takeaways from Jones’ story.
1- God calls us to love everybody – We hear it said that “all sin is the same” but do our actions reflect that truth? We can tend to diminish some sins and elevate others on the spectrum of severity. We turn up our nose at something like murder and tend to justify things like gossip or greed. The reality is that all sin renders us undeserving of eternity with God. But he offers forgiveness and reconciliation to any who believe in Jesus giving His life to pay our debt. Jones words and actions show that he understands that condemning people for their sin is not what we are here for. We are here to show the love of God to all people so they can meet the one who gives purpose and meaning to life. He is able to convey the magnitude of God’s love to the point where the outsports reporter admires Jones’ truthfulness and considers him one of his favorite players.
2- God meets us at our lowest point - This part of Jones’ story connected with me. Jones speaks about feeling lost, alone and insignificant when he was on the bench. He was used to being “the man”. When he had to wait his turn, he struggled. As a younger man, I battled feelings of insignificance and depression. I knew a lot about God, but I didn’t really think it was all true. It was through an amazing, God-led experience that I came to know that God is real and He keeps his promises. He has gone to great lengths to show Himself to all of us. He reminds us that apart from Him, we are lost, lonely and doomed. But He is real, and when we make him the most important part of our lives, He will lead us on an amazing adventure that will connect us with the God who created the world and everything in it. Give Him a chance to let you know that He is real and He wants you to know Him.
My mother is a casual baseball fan. Her favorite part of the baseball season is seeing who will hit a homerun for her (she claims) on her birthday. Her Birthday is today, but since my parents live on the East Coast of Canada, last night’s game ended after midnight, and therefore “today”. So I don’t know that she stayed up to see it, but last night’s game ended with a home run by Travis Ishikawa, sending the Giants to the World Series to face the Kansas City Royals. In case you missed it, here is the game winning 3 run blast.
For Ishikawa, it was a great moment, and the cherry on top of the long journey he has been on since winning a World Series Ring in 2010 with the Giants. After spending that year as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement, he appeared in 10 playoff games (10 at bats, showing he was primarily again used as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement. In the spring of 2011, he received his World Series ring, but did not make the team and would not play for them that season. After 2011, he was a free agent and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. He spent a full season there, and was released at the end of the season. He bounced around a little, playing in the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox organizations, including a couple very brief stints in the Majors (totaling 7 games).
You can hear about his story and how God was at work in his life through the process in this video taken at Giants faith day in August.
Frustrated by not making it back to the majors, Ishikawa decided to give it one more try. He began this season in Pittsburgh, but when they acquired first baseman Ike Davis, Ishikawa was the odd man out. He was released and became a free agent on April 23rd. The next day, the Giants signed him and sent him to their AAA team in Fresno. After considering his options and talking with his wife, Ishikawa was at the point where he considered retiring from baseball. He called a friend in tears, ready to give up on baseball. His friend reminded him of Romans 8.25 – Who can separate you from the Love of God?
The video cuts out, but it goes far enough to challenge me. Here are my takeaways from Ishikawa’s story
1- God is enough – When everything else seems to be falling apart, things are not going the way we want them to, Romans 8.25 reminds us that God is all that we need. Ishikawa is at the point where he doesn’t know where to turn or what to do, and his friend reminds him of the truth of this verse. God has not forgotten or abandoned you. He is all that you need and His plan is the best for you. And what a plan it has been. An injury would bring Ishikawa to the Giants in July, and he would spend the rest of the season earning a place on their post-season roster. Last night’s heroics show that he still has some baseball left in him, and is a tribute to God. God is all we need in good or in bad times. And the Bible is full of examples of God doing more in us and in our lives then we ever could have imagined, when we put the focus back on Him, and live each day to honor Him.
2- Remember Him wherever He leads you - Now Ishikawa, and his unlikely story find themselves on the biggest stage in baseball. Who gets the credit for Ishikawa being where he is? I’m sure that he will gladly proclaim to any who ask that it is because of God’s grace and goodness that the story of Travis Ishikawa is being shared and celebrated. I’m looking forward to a great World Series full of more incredible moments and opportunities for God to show how amazing He is through the players on both teams that love Him and live their lives to honor Him.
Ryan Broyles grew up in Norman Oklahoma. The southern part of the United States is often referred to as the “Bible Belt”. This means a place where church attendance is part of regular life for the vast majority of people. Broyles was no exception. He could be regularly found at church with his mother, a single mom, and his 3 siblings. As he shares in this interview with unpackin’it, at the age of 14, his mother gave him the choice of going to church or not. Through high school and college, Broyles presence at church became less and less frequent. He would still attend occasionally, but given the choice, he chose to skip more often than not.
Fast forward to 2007. Broyles is arrested for attempting to steal gas from a station in Norman OK. He is suspended from the team indefinitely. The time for searching out the meaning and purpose outside of football begins. In 2010, things began to change for Broyles. His girlfriend at the time (now his wife) said that they needed to make some changes in how they were living their lives. They decided to start reading and studying the Bible together, joined a church and began to get involved.
He shares in this article that in the midst of his record setting season with Oklahoma, he also began studying the Bible with Sooner quarterback Landry Jones. He enjoyed learning more and more about the Bible and God, but still something was missing. The table was set for a life changing experience for Broyles. That experience would come in the form of a mission trip to Haiti. He returned from his experience there a changed man. He was beginning to understand that living for God was about giving Him your all. It was not about taking things for granted.
Broyles was in one of the poorest places on earth, and what he found was people of deep faith in God, living joy-filled lives. And he was jealous of them and their joy. He had been learning a lot about God, but serving God and seeing the joy of other believers, Broyles heart made a connection. He came back from that trip with a desire to live for God everyday.
Here are my takeaways from Broyles’ story:
1- The Choice is Ours – I find it interesting that Broyles shared that his mother gave him a choice at about age 14 of whether he would go to church or not. The truth is that as a parent, we would love to make all the decisions for our kids, but the reality is that each one of us gets to choose for themselves how important God is going to be in our life. As I read this portion of the story, I thought about Joshua 24. God has used Joshua to lead the Israelites to the promised land. He gathers them all together and reminds the assembly of all that God has done to bring them to this place. He finishes with this challenge. “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped(…) Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve(…) But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
As parents, this is what we ultimately must do for our kids. Leave no doubt where we stand in our own faith, but remember that the decision is ultimately up to each individual to choose how important God will be in their lives. I am sure that when she offered her son the choice of going to church or not, Ryan Broyles mom prayed that God would remind him of all the things he learned in church, and prayed that God would draw Ryan back to Him. That is what happened, and Broyles is using his platform as a football player to serve God
2- When you see what is important, what you see becomes important - Broyles trip to Haiti, and his journey of faith has helped him realize what is most important – living for God. But when you are living to honor and serve God, whatever he calls you to do, then becomes of great importance, too. Colossians 3.23 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men”, trip Broyles talks about training hard and putting in a lot of work in practice and in film study so he can be the best player he can be. Does he do this to be a star and have everyone talk about how amazing he is? No. He does this because to work at his craft (football) with all his heart is what God asks of him.
That is the challenge I am taking from Broyles story. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men! (Col. 3.23)
Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte has been a key part of the Bears offence since being drafted out of Tulane by the Bears in 2008. Forte was drafted to compete with Bears incumbent running back Cedric Benson. But Benson was cut due to legal issues, and so Forte, as a rookie, took on a major role with the Bears. In his debut, he rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown. He was named player of the game for his efforts. He would go on to rush for over 1,200 yards. It would be the first of 4 seasons in which Forte would rush for more than 1,000 yards. In the 2 seasons that he missed the 1,000 yard plateau, he missed by 3 and 71 yards. He has also played in 2 Pro Bowls.
Forte, though is not all about football. When asked in this article from Chicagoparent.com about his priorities in life, football came fourth, after faith, family and education. When it comes to the legacy he will leave, Forte says “I want to leave a legacy as a father, too, and by impacting young kids’ lives. I don’t want my tombstone to just say: Matt Forte, football player.”
His faith is a foundation for his life, his career and his family. It is a faith that was instilled in him by his family. Forte placed his faith in Christ at the age of 15. He knows that God has been working in his life throughout his career, in great times and through hard things. In this article from Sports Spectrum, He says “It’s easy to praise God and be all happy and tell everyone when things are going well…But when things go bad, how do you act, and what’s your character like?“
After each touchdown, Forte celebrates by pointing to heaven and then flexing his biceps. In this article from the Post-Tribune, it is not a conceited thing. “he’s giving thanks to God for giving him his strength, pointing to heaven before he flexes his bulging muscles.”
Now here is a cool part of that which fits in with the “Living up to my Name” theme of this blog. Forte is from Louisiana. His surname is french and means “strength”. Forte knows that his “strength” comes from God, and I find flexing his muscles a fitting tribute to the God who has written an amazing story thus far for the Bears running back.
Here are my takeaways from Forte’s story.
1- God IS our Forte – John 15 reminds us that apart from God, we can do nothing. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul writes “My (God’s) power is strongest when you (Paul) are weak.” So I will brag even more about my weaknesses in order that Christ’s power will live in me. Therefore, I accept weakness…when I’m weak, I’m strong“. Forte knows that all he has and all he will ever achieve in football and in life only comes from God’s strength working in and through him. His strength comes from the Lord. God gives us great gifts. He gives us what we need and equips us to thrive when we allow His strength to work through us.
2- What is your legacy – We will be known for what we place importance on in our lives. The rich young ruler (Matthew 19.16-22) shows us this. He placed importance on material things and left sad when God asked him to give it all away. The same is true for us. What is important to you? What are your priorities? Forte talks about the legacy of being a good father and impacting the lives of the people he has influence over. What do you want others to take away from your presence in their life? Where do you place your importance? Is it on the name you make for yourself or is it in serving others, introducing them to God and changing their lives for the better. I hope that my legacy will be leading others to an eternity with their loving creator,
Tim Masthay has been valuable to his team, the Green Bay Packers since joining them in 2009. Three times he has been the NFC special teams player of the week. He is a Super Bowl Champion. In 2011, he set a new Packers record for kicking distances. He even has a perfect passing rating, completing his one career pass (a shovel pass to TE Tom Crabtree) for a 27 yard TD on a fake FG. Here is a look at his amazing passing proficiency.
Masthay’s value as a football player was not always at the point where it is now. He was undrafted out of college. He signed a free-agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts, but was cut before the first pre-season game. He spent that season out of football completely, hoping for his phone to ring, and another chance at the NFL. During that time, his wife Amanda was working as a bank teller. Tim was tutoring for $10/hour. You can read about their journey in this article from packerpedia.com. He says something amazing about his wife in this interview with ESPN. When talking about the start of his career when he was cut by the Colts and waiting for another chance, he says that “It’s just great because my value to her doesn’t change at all regardless of if I’m in the league or out of the league, if I have a job or don’t have a job. She’s just been great.”
The call did come, and Masthay is now in his 5th year with the Packers. When asked about the important things in life, Masthay often discusses his faith in God and the role that it plays. He goes on to say in the Packerpedia profile that “I waited for ‘success’ to return, but knew in my heart that only God could fill the voids and restore me…Instead of quitting I just decided to lean on God for strength and stick it out. And man, am I glad that’s the path I wound up walking down”
Here are my takeaways from Masthay’s story:
1- The benefit of a great partner – The Bible talks about how we as Christians are the bride of Christ. I have learned a lot about what true love is from my married life. My wife is amazing and wonderful. God has taught me about His unconditional love through her love for me. She loves me for who I am and values who God is making me to be. What a picture of the value that God places on us. With her and God on my side, I can move confidently, knowing that even if I mess up, I will be loved. And I get to play the same role for her. To be her cheerleader, to be her encourager, and to be her loving support as we walk through this life together. God knew what he was doing when he set up the marriage relationship like He did. I hope and pray that as Christians, we will always fight for our marriages – that they will remind us of God’s perfect love for our imperfect selves.
2- We are Valuable – Sometimes we don’t feel like we are worth much. But to God, our value is immense. Christian Band Everybody Duck writes in their song “Tetelestai” this great thought.
“And when there’s no love, I have you Lord, before the earth was formed your plan for me you knew.
And in this day when someone’s worth is based on what someone would pay, it’s nice to know I’m worth one Jesus to you”
We are like coupons in the Sunday paper. While it seems like we are nothing more than paper, when God redeems us, we take on a value that is immeasurable. God has done it. There is nothing that we do to earn God’s love or make ourselves more valuable to Him. He chose to make us valuable enough to send Jesus to redeem us. However, if we choose not to allow God to redeem us, then we are like an unused coupon. Our life is worthless!
Football season is underway – week 5 starts tonight with the Minnesota Vikings taking on the Green Bay Packers. And now that baseball’s regular season is done, I will be changing my focus to the NFL for the coming weeks. My journey through the NFL teams begins where I live – in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, with one of their off-season acquisitions, defensive back Captain Munnerlyn.
First of all, he has a great story behind his name. As you can read on his web-site, He was named after his great-great grandfather, and what a great name to take on. It speaks to leadership, dedication and responsibility – all great areas of life to grow and thrive in. But if you check out the story of his life, as recorded by kfan, his journey to the NFL was rooted in his faith in God. It is a faith that he came to at a young age and in the face of deep tragedy and difficulty.
His father was killed when Captain was 6 years old, and a few years later, his oldest brother Timothy was convicted of killing someone. His other older brothers were involved in the drug trade in and around Mobile Alabama. The outlook was grim for Captain. But his mother, having suffered through all these tragic episodes and losses, turned to God for comfort and direction. Her new found faith changed not only her life, but her son’s life too. “If the head of the household can change her life, it can change everyone’s life,” Munnerlyn said. Part of her turn to faith meant that Captain – still in elementary school at the time, would also go to church, attend Sunday School and Wednesday night Bible study, too. And with the positive, God-centered environment now in the picture, Captain chose to surrender to God, too – as a sixth grader.
With God on his side, Captain was able to overcome, not only his past and the hurt that it involved, but also his size. Seen by many as undersized for football, he has worked hard to change those perceptions. God used sports to help guide Captain out of the difficult life situation that he had experienced. And God’s plan was to lead Captain to the NFL, where he has played and played well for 5 seasons. His sixth NFL season is his first for the Vikings.
Here are my takeaways from Captain’s story
1- Living up to my name – The name “Captain” implies leadership, responsibility, and dedication. Names are a point of focus for this blog. It is named as a challenge to live up to my name – Page – which means a servant to the King. I strive to serve God – the King of Kings – each and every day. I also call myself a Christian. To live up to that name means to follow God and do what He asks. God calls us to different things, but he also calls us all to some certain things. He calls us all to go into the world and make disciples. He calls us to Love one another as this will be the demonstration. He calls us to decrease, so He can increase – to die to ourselves and allow Him to take control. When we are following Him and giving Him control, He can take us from wherever we are – on top of the world, or in the depths of despair, and make an amazing story out of our story. What is your name? What do you call yourself? Are you living up to it? Let’s ask God to help us live up to has who He has created us to be.
2- No More Excuses – I work as an after school program director. In my job, I have the privilege of telling a daily bible story to a group of elementary aged students. For the past couple weeks, we have been talking about the life of Moses. What stood out to me about the part of the story we covered today is how often the Israelites complained. They complained when Moses led them away from the Egyptians to the shores of the Red Sea (Exodus 14). They complained when they didn’t have water or food immediately available for them (Exodus 16 and 17). And they are just getting started. Looking at Captain Munnerlyn’s story, I think back to my own upbringing. I grew up with loving parents and siblings, all of whom are following God. I can’t even begin to understand all that Captain has gone through. But I also know that I have always been prone to spend more time complaining and seeing the negative side of life then I ever spent showing gratitude for what God has been up to. I am challenged by Munnerlyn’s story to see how great God is and to be grateful that I have breath, a loving God, and forgiveness for my sins. I have no reason to complain about anything. How I wish that all the words from my mouth were words of praise to the Almighty God who provides for me in miraculous ways. He is all I need and His plan is the only one I wish to follow!