Looking For Opportunities

MLB: Spring Training-Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.” Romans 15:2

Late in one game during a June 2014 home series with the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Peter Bourjos drifted back to catch a fly ball near the warning track.

It was the final out of the inning. Then Bourjos, like many outfielders have done before him, ran toward the left center field bleachers, pointed toward a bespectacled little boy on the front row, and tossed him the ball.

The boy was ecstatic! He showed the ball to everyone around him, and displayed a joyful ear to ear grin! Peter had made his day! He will probably remember the experience the rest of his life.

Romans 14:19 says “…let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may build up another.” There are many people on our planet, who need encouragement, who need to be built up.

Have you had any chances to make someone’s day? It doesn’t take much. Opening a door for another person, giving a greeting to someone who appears discouraged, taking garden vegetables to your neighbors, and other simple things can go a long way. I think it is a combination of a deed done for someone else’s benefit, plus a personal touch.

Let us be alert for opportunities to encourage, and pursue personal ways to do so. We might make someone’s day, build them up, and give them a memory for Jesus’ sake.

By Stanley Tucker

Stanley Tucker is a contributor to Sports Spectrum magazine. This devotional is taken from our most recent Training Table. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

Riches That Last

Los Angeles Angels Photo Day“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 

What does it mean to be rich? When Stan Musial signed his 17th contract in 1958, he became the first National Leaguer to make $100,000. He was rich. In 1975, Catfish Hunter signed as a free agent for five years with the Yankees, making more than $3 million. He was richer. In 2012, Albert Pujols signed a 10-year deal with the L.A. Angels for more than $250 million. He is very rich.

There is a permanent way to become “rich.” When a person acknowledges he is a sinner and trusts in Jesus as his Sin-Bearer, he becomes rich in at least three ways. He becomes rich in grace. Ephesians 1:7 says he has redemption and forgiveness “according to the riches of His grace.” How do you put a price tag on that?  Second, He becomes rich in friends. Psalms 119:63 says, “I am a companion of all who fear You…” Christians have a blood-bought bond with other Christians. They are friends forever.Third, he becomes rich in blessings. Proverbs 10:22 says, “the blessings of the LORD makes one rich…”

Do you want to be rich? If you choose Jesus as your Savior, He may (or may not) bless you with possessions, goods and property. He may (or may not) bless you with wealth, dollars and cents.

But he will definitely bless you with eternal life and a new identity as He welcomes you into His purposes, which is priceless.

By Stanley Tucker

Stanley Tucker writes devotionals for Sports Spectrum magazine. This devotional is taken from our most recent Training Table. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

Assured of Ultimate Victory

618_348_michael-wacha-cardinals-starting-pitcher-players-to-watch-at-spring-training“But whoever listens to me will dwell safely and will be secure, without fear of evil.” Proverbs 1:33  

Game 2 of the 2013 National League Championship Series was a classic for baseball purists. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the L.A. Dodgers 1-0 behind 22-year-old rookie pitcher Michael Wacha.

Each batter Wacha faced represented the tying or go ahead run. The tension was thick in every inning.

In the sixth inning, trailing 1-0, the Dodgers had runners on second and third with no outs and later had the bases loaded with one out. Wacha was able to get out of the jam, striking out the next two batters. In the post-game interview, he was asked how he dealt with the pressure in those situations. He simply said, “I listened to Yadi.”

Catcher Yadier Molina is the Cardinals’ team leader. He is their best hitter and best fielder. He has nurtured several rookie pitchers this season through tough spots.

James 1:19 says “let every man be swift (ready) to hear…” As Christians, our team leader is Jesus. He endured more pain and suffering than any human in history during His arrest, trial and crucifixion. After rising from the dead, He sent His Spirit and His Word to be there for us through all the tough spots in our life.

Are you ready to listen to Him? He’s ready to help out at a moment’s notice.

He is our team leader. Put your trust in Him. Daily victories are likely; ultimate victory is assured. 

By Stanley Tucker

Stanley Tucker writes devotionals for Sports Spectrum magazine. This devotional is taken from our most recent Training Table. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

Devotional of the Week — The Fourth Soil

 

799px-Kansas-Basketball-Staff-Nov-15-07-Washburn“But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirty fold, some sixty and some a hundred.” Mark 4:8

In 2004 Bill Self left Illinois as head basketball coach and went to Kansas. He later won a national title in 2008. Illinois then hired Bruce Weber, former coach at Southern Illinois University, to replace Self. Since Self stressed offense and Weber stressed defense, the first year was difficult for the returning players, adjusting to a new coach and new coaching style.

The next year, Weber was quoted as saying he was glad the players had “bought in” to his system. They finished the year 37-2 and made it to the NCAA Championship game, losing to North Carolina.

The phrase “bought in” occurs often in sports when there is a managerial or coaching change. It means the players are willing to listen and implement what brand of play the coach desires.

In Mark 4, the parable of the sower and its explanation are given by Jesus. He said there are four soils where God’s Word may fall. I think I’ve been in all four. The first, I just wasn’t listening to the Word. In the second, I listened for a while. In the third, I listened but was distracted. In the fourth soil, I listened and “bought in.”

In which soil are you? Are you listening to God’s voice? Are you distracted? Be in the fourth soil. “Buy in” to what God is saying. Be fruitful for Him.

By Stanley Tucker

Stanley Tucker writes devotionals for Sports Spectrum magazine. This devotional is taken from our most recent Training Table. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

Devotional of the Week — Union in the Dugout

2011 State Farm Home Run Derby“I do not pray for those alone, but also for those who will believe in Me…that they all may be one…that they also may be one in us…” John 17:20-21

Baseball is a simple game. Throw strikes. See the ball and hit it. There are three outs, per team, per inning and nine innings in a game. Teams that play well together are usually successful.

Team unity is enhanced in the clubhouse by energetic leaders like Orlando “Cha-Cha” Cepeda, who led the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series in 1967 and 1968. It can also be augmented by quiet leaders like Carlos Beltran, who leads by consistent performance and is there to be an example and mentor to younger players.

Unfortunately, unity can also be disrupted by major distractions such as the human growth hormone (HGH) issue. Particularly, players who deceive their teammates about such things can derail the unity of a team.

How is your unity with Jesus? The above verses indicate He is passionate about us being one with Him, like members of the same team.

One thing that comes between us and Jesus is a sinful attitude. Psalm 66:18 says, “if I regard sin in my heart, the LORD will not hear.” Who wants to be in that position, no longer able to communicate with the teammate Who cares for us the most? When His Spirit reminds us we have sinful thoughts or deeds, we need to confess our sin as soon as possible. Let us all keep short accounts with God, and retain our unity with Him.

By Stanley Tucker

Stanley Tucker contributes devotionals to Sports Spectrum magazine. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

Devotional of the Week — Power Outage

St Louis Cardinals v San Francisco Giants - Game Six

“…power belongs to God…” Psalm 62:11

The 2012 St. Louis Cardinals baseball team exhibited unusual power. Five players: Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and David Freese each hit 20 or more home runs. This had never happened in franchise history.

They made it to the postseason, winning the wild card playoff and division series. They were up 3 games to 1 in the National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants until San Francisco’s excellent pitching took over and St. Louis was outscored 20-1 in the last three games. They had a “power outage.”

Have you ever experienced a power outage? We did once, for 30 hours. A kerosene heater, camp stove and candles helped us through it. It made me appreciate the power when it came back on.

What if God had a power outage? How would it affect me?

In Romans 1:16, the Gospel displays the power of God for me to be saved. In I Corinthians 12:9, His power will rest upon me when I am weak. In II Timothy 1:7, the power of God is given to help me overcome my fears.

I still wake up fearful, imagining imminent “worst case” scenarios. Many times, I have been weakened from overwork, an injury or a virus. Yet the Word of God tells me that in spite of my fears and weaknesses, the power of God in me is always on.

This could be life-changing for me. How about you?

By Stanley Tucker

Stanley Tucker writes devotionals for Sports Spectrum magazine. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

Devotional of the Week — Plenty More of That

Raiders Dolphins Madden 1974

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“These are the mere edges of His ways…” Job 14:26 

On January 9, 1977, Super Bowl XI was played between Oakland and Minnesota.

Early in the game, Oakland moved into Minnesota’s red zone, but came away with only a field goal. John Madden, the Raiders head coach, was frustrated. Kenny Stabler, the Raiders quarterback, said, “Don’t worry, Coach. There’s plenty more where that came from.” He was right. With the Raiders’ line opening huge holes for Clarence Davis and Mark Van Eegham, while allowing Stabler time to find Fred Biletinikoff, Cliff Branch and Dave Casper, the Raiders won easily 32-14.

Have you experienced the love of God? There’s plenty more where that came from, according to John 13:1. Have you experienced the forgiveness of God? It’s always there for the asking, in I John 1:9. What about the peace of God? It’s beyond understanding, in Philippians 4:7. What about the grace of God? It’s there without measure, in Ephesians 4:7. Have you felt the awe of God’s creation? It fills our universe according to Psalm 19:1. What about God’s goodness? It never ends, in Psalm 23:6. Have you sensed God’s presence? It will never, ever leave you, according to Hebrew 13:5.

These aspects of God could be examined in greater detail, as well as many others, because they truly are the “mere edges of His ways.” Isn’t He worthy of our worship?

By Stanley Tucker

Stanley Tucker writes devotionals for Sports Spectrum magazine. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

Devotional of the Week — Strong In The Lord

Super Bowl XIV - Los Angeles Rams v Pittsburgh Steelers“For bodily exercise profits a little but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” I Timothy 4:8 

In the 1970’s the Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls. Part of the reason was that their offensive front four could all bench press 500 pounds. Their superior strength protected Terry Bradshaw well and opened huge holes for Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier.

The weight room is a vital part of athletic programs today in professional, college and even high school sports. Strength training pays off in football, basketball, and other sports as well.

In Nehemiah 6, there were trying times in Judah with immorality, apathy, fear, and attacks from without and within, upon the Jews. Did Nehemiah want to give up, give in, or just move? No, he asked God in verse 9 to “strengthen my hands.” Was he talking of physical strength, or spiritual? Maybe he meant both, but certainly the latter. The opening verse tells us that physical strength is good and profitable, but spiritual strength is better. Our culture today is in trying times with immorality, apathy, fear, and attacks from without and within, upon Christians.

Are you becoming strong in the Lord during all of this, or do you want to give up, give in, or just move? We can’t fight these battles on our own strength. Good biceps and abs will last a long time if we keep working them, but strength form the Lord lasts forever. May we, like Nehemiah, rely on God to strengthen our hands in our times of trials.

By Stanley Tucker

Stanley Tucker writes devotionals for Sports Spectrum magazine. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.

Devotional of the Week — Give Yourself a Break

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29 

In the 1934 World Series between the Cardinals and Tigers, Dizzy and Paul Dean (featured in the picture with Babe Ruth) combined to pitch in 5 of the 7 games, each working on short rest. In the 1946 Series, Harry Brecheen pitched in 3 of the 7 games, working on short rest. In 1964, 1967 and 1968, Bob Gibson pitched 3 of the 7 games. More recently, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks together pitched in 5 of the 7 games against the Yankees in 2001. Many of these times the results were positive, but not always.

Do you get physically tired working on or off the field of competition? God has a purpose for rest. In Exodus 20:11 (the fourth commandment), He set apart one day a week for it. It is a practical admonition written for our own good. Professional baseball does well to have off days in the schedule.

Hebrews 4:9 says, “There remains a rest for the people of God,” implying that while we’re here on earth, we ought to be working on His behalf. Psalm 37:4 says “…rest in the LORD…” implying that whatever we’re doing, we can’t do it on our own strength.

Do you get spiritually tired also? In the opening verse, the Greek word for “yoke” is “zygote,” which means “a coupling.” There’s no such thing as a one-person yoke. So, whether it is physical or spiritual labor, “team up” with Jesus and rely on His strength. Your body will thank you, and so will your soul.

By Stanley Tucker 

Stanley Tucker is a subscriber of Sports Spectrum magazine. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table.

Devotional of the Week — Ask for directions

”…in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:11

Yadier Molina is perhaps the best defensive catcher in baseball. His prowess at throwing out base-stealers (45 percent) is among the elite in the majors. His 41 pick offs rank first in the National League, “light years” ahead of second place.

He has five consecutive National League Gold Gloves and one Platinum Glove, given to the best among all Gold Glove recipients for that particular season.

Yet many times while watching games, I’ve seen him look over to his manager (formerly Tony LaRussa, now Mike Matheny) and ask what pitch to call for his pitcher. Here’s a guy who is as “baseball smart” as they come, but isn’t too proud to depend on his manager for advice.

David was one of the greatest warriors in the Bible. He defeated Goliath, an undefeated military champion, with just a slingshot. He defeated the Philistines, Amalekites, Jebusites, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites and Syrians before and during his career as King of Judah and Israel.

Yet 12 times in I and II Samuel, it’s recorded that David “inquired of the Lord”, mostly for combat advice. Here’s a guy who defeated every military enemy he ever faced, but wasn’t too proud to depend on the Lord for guidance. Maybe I should strive to be more dependent on the Lord in my daily life. No request is too big (or too small), and God will hear them. He answered David 12 times out of 12.

Are you dependent on the Lord? He’s reliable and He cares. He’ll hear you when you ask Him, and He’ll answer you in His wisdom.

By Stanley A. Tucker

Stanley A. Tucker is a freelance writer for Sports Spectrum magazine. This devotional is taken from our most recent Training Table, a compilation of sports-related devotionals included in each print magazine. Log in here to access the March 2013/Volume 27, Number 2 Training Table. 

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