Using Your Gifts for Something Bigger than Yourself

29691_404838853504_108094648504_4277118_5636922_n“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres.” I Corinthians 13:4-7

Several years ago I lived in a world that didn’t make God happy. I played on good teams and was paid good money, but I wasn’t happy. It was a dark world with many fake friendships; people who liked me for what I had.

When I met my future wife, she helped me know the true love of God. In the moment that I accepted Jesus and gave my life to Him, everything changed. I received a new lease on life with trusted friends, and in my job as a soccer player I had more respect from, and for,
my teammates.

In return, God touched my heart to share His blessings with the other teammates. In feeling called to do this, I started to make gospel CD’s to give to other teammates, and every chance I told them about Jesus.

I noticed that God changed my life using soccer as a weapon to talk more about His Kingdom and glory. What weapons has God given you to use?

By Diego Jose Martins

Diego Jose Martins is a professional soccer player and 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.

Louis Zamperini dies at age 97

Last week, the world lost a true hero and true example of Christ: Louis “Louie” Zamperini. He was 97. He ran in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he was a World War II hero and POW, and he spoke on forgiveness every chance he had — even going and witnessing, after the war, to the very Japanese prison guards who severely beat him for two years.

“I get so many letters from Christians,” says Zamperini in a story written by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association in 2011, “and some of them are having a tough time. I write back and share Scripture with them.”

He describes a letter he received recently from a man who had been fired from his job.

“This man was a Christian and forgave everyone else in his life, but he had a hard time forgiving the boss who fired him. He hated the man. But then he read in ‘Unbroken’ how I forgave the POW prison guard.” Now this man has not only forgiven his boss, he is praying for him.

Zamperini’s biography, Unbroken, became a New York Times No. 1 bestseller in 2010.

A movie by the same name will be released on Christmas Day of this year.

An American Revolution

2004_July_Aug_TimHowardCoverAs soon as he crossed the Atlantic Ocean, Tim Howard began to open people’s eyes. Here was an American goalie playing at the top level in soccer-crazy England.

The 25-year-old Howard, who spent nearly six seasons with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, signed with Manchester United of England’s Premier League last July, and he made an immediate impact upon reaching the United Kingdom. In fact, Howard helped Man U capture the coveted FA Cup on May 22 by shutting out Millwall 3-0 in the deciding game.

Click here to read the remainder of this throwback story on Tim Howard from Sports Spectrum’s July/August 2004 issue…

Fill Me Up

cha-081009-retirements“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

What does a satisfying life look like? This question is something I chased after for a long time. It was something that, deep down, I longed for; to live a life that satisfied my heart but also made a difference in the lives of others. It was not until I was in my early 20’s that I came to see that God created me to be in a relationship with Him, but that He also gave me gifts that could be used to honor Him and serve others.

I always loved playing soccer and competing, but for most of my life I did it for the wrong reasons. I only started to understand the life that God really had in store for me when I learned how to use my gifts to build relationships, bridge cultural gaps, and share the message of hope around the world.

For the past 14 years, I have had the chance to play soccer professionally, but more than that I have had the chance to travel the world and tell others the story of the Lord who changed my life.

Christ desires to give us a life that satisfies our hearts and impacts the world. My hope for you is that you first enter the most important relationship with Christ, and then secondly, see how God desires to use you. When these two things happen, I truly believe you will have the full life that Christ offers.

By Dustin Swinehart

Dustin Swinehart is a professional soccer player and 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.

Beyond The Field

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Chargers’ wide receiver Vincent Brown is anything but your typical NFL player. Off the field, the down-to-earth Upland, California, native is at home in jeans and Converse playing the drums with the energy of a teenager! On the field, the fourth year player is one of quarterback Philip Rivers’ top targets.

During the 2013 season, Brown played a pivotal role in helping San Diego reach the playoffs, pulling down 41 receptions for 472 yards. The Bolts didn’t advance past the third game of the playoffs, but for Brown, the entire experience was thrilling. The season served as a huge comeback year after limited playing time his rookie year in 2011 because of a hamstring injury—and then suffering a broken ankle during the 2012 preseason.

“God really got my attention [with the ankle],” shares the 25-year-old. “Taking away football shifted my thinking to put me on the right track—that football is important, but there is nothing more important than God. It was a hard experience to go through, but the growth I had through that process was amazing.”

“The first three weeks, I was stuck on my couch and couldn’t move,” Brown says. “I physically couldn’t do anything in my own power. Every time I went to make a decision, I realized that all my strength and power came from God. That’s exactly where he wanted me to be; God first, and everything else falls into place, just like Scripture says.”

Studying the Word, going to Bible study, and finding teammates to stay accountable with has made all the difference in Brown’s walk with Christ while living in the limelight. He attends the Rock Church in San Diego, is involved in a few Bible studies, and regularly meets with teammate Darrell Stuckey and FCA’s Colin Sinclair.

“Meeting with others helps me keep on track, and keep accountable with each other,” he says. “I try to just focus on using the gifts God gave me to show God’s love. That’s what I’m all about. I’m just a normal guy.” Brown’s goals entering this season are to play his role on the offense, to take advantage of every opportunity that comes his way, and to praise God through it all. “I want to praise God in football and to let people know who God is, and not be afraid to take the step out to play for him,” he sums. “I want to worship God, and that’s how football is for me.”

A lot of guys point up to the sky when they score a touchdown, and whether or not it’s sincere, for Brown it is, and he makes sure to kneel in a prayer of thanks. “I was never the biggest or strongest athlete,” says the San Diego State University graduate. “I had to work really hard to get where I’m at. I would stay after practice and take extra reps to get better.”

Vincent Brown Spread_Page_2

That hard work has given him an amazing platform to share more about his Savior, including a special moment that took place during a recent offseason vacation. Brown and a few teammates traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to relax and unwind. “God taught me that He is everywhere, even when you’re on vacation,” he shares. “I remember sitting on the balcony of the hotel, and God put it on my heart that there was something that He wanted me to do there.”

What happened next is what Brown considers not only the highlight of his trip, but also one of his most significant experiences of seeing the power of the Holy Spirit work in someone’s heart. “That evening, we went down to the restaurant area of the hotel, and a man we had met the night before approached us,” says Brown. “He came up and said, ‘I don’t know what it is, but I’m drawn to you guys. There’s something different about you. I want to know what it is.’”

Brown and a friend shared their faith stories with the man, and eventually led him to the Lord that evening. “The Holy Spirit was moving in that place,” he shares. “I could have played a football
game I was so hyped up after that.”

The meaningful story is just another reason why Vincent Brown is not your typical NFL player. He has a heart for impacting the world around him, and isn’t afraid to step out in faith and share the Good News of what Christ has done in his life. This fall, Brown will be hyped up for the gridiron, and who knows, he may just help the Chargers reach the playoffs again.

By Jenna Sampson
 

 

Closeup Tribute — Louis Zamperini

Louie Zamperini Spread

On July 2, the world lost a true hero and true example
of Christ: Louis Silvie “Louie” Zamperini.
He was 97. Zamperini was born Jan. 26, 1917, in
Olean, New York, to Italian immigrants who spoke
no English when they came to the United States.

In 1934, as 17-year-old, he set a world interscholastic mile
record (4 minutes, 21.2 seconds), and two years later, as a
19-year-old at Southern Cal, he earned a spot on the U.S.
Olympic track and field team by tying American record holder,
Don Lash, in the 5,000 meters at the U.S. trials, and becoming
the youngest to ever make the team in that event. Zamperini
ran in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, finishing eighth, and two
years later set the collegiate mile record in 4:08.

Less than 7 years later, he was fighting in World War II,
where he became a POW in one of the most notorious Japanese
prison camps of the war, and later a war hero after he
was awarded the Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross and
the Prisoner of War Medal.

But his life was defined, not by his athletic and military
achievements, but by his forgiving spirit. Whenever he had
the chance, he spoke on forgiveness – even going and witnessing,
after the war, to the very Japanese prison guards who
severely beat him for two years.

“I get so many letters from Christians,” said Zamperini in
a story written by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association
in 2011, “and some of them are having a tough time. I write
back and share Scripture with them.”

Zamperini, who became a Christian in 1949 at a Billy Graham
Crusade in Los Angeles, described a letter he received
from a man who had been fired from his job. “This man was
a Christian and forgave everyone else in his life, but he had
a hard time forgiving the boss who fired him. He hated the
man. But then he read in ‘Unbroken’ how I forgave the POW
prison guard.” Now this man has not only forgiven his boss,
he is praying for him.”

Zamperini’s patience, forgiving spirit and resilience were
molded by his faith and his experiences in running and war.

“You learn perseverance in running,” Zamperini said in an
interview with famed television journalist Tom Brokow, who
was interviewing Zamperini in advance of the upcoming movie,
Unbroken, about Zamperini’s inspirational and extraordinary
life. “Right in the middle of almost giving up, you try again
and again until you overcome. And that’s important in a war,
too, the determination to come out first, to come out alive. To
persevere, I think it’s important for everybody, don’t give up,
don’t give in, there’s always an answer to everything.”

A book about Zamperini’s life, Unbroken, became a New York
Times No. 1 bestseller in 2010, and Time Magazine ranked it
as the best non-fiction book that year. The movie, Unbroken,
will be released on Christmas Day of this year. ’

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. 

 

 

Closeup — Chelsea Baker

Chelsea Baker Spread

Like fishing stories that morph each year when aging
anglers add several inches and pounds to their “big
catch,” Chelsea Baker’s story seems to get better
with age, as well.

The only difference is that her story is true.

Baker, who was featured in Sports Spectrum three years ago
for dominating the baseball diamond with her knuckleball, is
now a rising senior at Durant High in Plant City, Fla. where she
is playing on the high school baseball team – yes, a baseball
team with all boys.

She had a solid season throwing her knuckleball, recording
3 wins, 0 losses, 3 saves, 1 complete game, while giving
up only 3 hits and 3 walks in 19 innings. Her ERA? A
stunning 0.74.

However, what happened June 23 at Tropicana Field in Tampa is
something she’ll likely remember longer than those statistics.
She threw batting practice to Major League Baseball’s Tampa
Bay Rays and she also threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Baker was introduced to the knuckler by a coach with whom
she had a special relationship — the late Joe Niekro, who perfected
it during 22 seasons in the major leagues. She was only
a tyke when she coaxed him into providing some instruction.

“He threw it to all of us in batting practice. I would always
just laugh whenever he threw it to me because I knew I
couldn’t hit it,” she told Sports Spectrum in 2011. “So I used
to always beg him to teach me it, and he’d always be like, ‘No.
It’s a secret.’

“I think since I bothered him so much, he just taught it to
me, and I caught on to it.”
Niekro died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 2006 and never
saw his young prodigy master the pitch that has brought them
notoriety.

Baker credits the 221-game winner for much of her success,
but she saves her highest praise for God. Every morning,
she rolls out of bed and faces a baseball wall decoration she
customized with a photo of herself at the Hall of Fame and a
handwritten reminder from Philippians 4:13:

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

“I know that without Him, I would have never gotten this
far,” she says, “and I would never be here.”

By Brett Honeycutt and Bob Bellone

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. 

 

 

In The News — Paul Westphal

Paul Westphal Spread

Paul Westphal has seemingly come full circle.
The well-traveled player and coach has been an
NBA All-Star (five times) and coached the NBA All-
Stars (twice), he has played and coached in the
NBA finals, and he has been an NBA assistant coach and
head coach.

Now, he’s coaching again – this time with the Brooklyn
Nets and as an assistant coach under Lionel Hollins, who
played against Westphal in the NBA, coached with Westphal
when both were assistants with the Phoenix Suns, and served as
an assistant coach under Westphal when Westphal was the head coach in Phoenix
in the early 1990s.

The news of the 63-year-old Westphal’s return to the NBA (he was last in the
NBA as the head coach with the Sacramento Kings in 2012) was announced on
July 10 on his Facebook page, which is maintained by his wife of more than 40
years, Cindy.

“TOGETHER AGAIN!!!” were the first words on Westphal’s Facebook page that
day. “What an amazing turn of events the last ten or twelve days have been.
Jason Kidd bolted the Brooklyn Nets basketball organization, Lionel Hollins got
the phone call to take his place, about four days later Paul was awakened at 4:42
in the morning from a text beep. It was Lionel telling him to sit tight while he
first dealt with other business. This morning the phone rang…..an extremely long
conversation ensued. Coach Hollins had put the
wheels in motion that led to Paul’s agent, Steve
Kauffman, working out an assistant coaching
contract with Nets management. All that remains
are the i’s to be dotted and the t’s to be crossed.

“There are no words to describe the honor and
the thrill it is for Paul to now be Coach Hollins’
assistant with this exciting opportunity. He loves
the way Lionel sees the game, and competes. He
respects his basketball mind, the man and leader
he has proven himself to be. Paul is beyond
humbled to have been asked to join the staff,
even got a little misty-eyed from the time he
first learned it would be a possibility. GO NETS
!!!! …….cindy”

It will be a return to New York for Westphal,
who played for the Knicks from 1981-83.

Westphal, who was featured in Sports Spectrum’s
first issue 30 years ago when the magazine
was called Sports Focus, still has a strong relationship with Christ.

In an interview with Sports Spectrum this past winter, he shared what God had
been teaching him recently.

“I guess just to value every day for what it is, and not to take anything for
granted,” he told Sports Spectrum in January. “You know, we’re just passing through
this life, but we’re here for a reason. So, it’s important to not waste time.”

He isn’t wasting any time with his life, foregoing retirement and jumping back
into the NBA to impact lives.

By Brett Honeycutt

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor at Sports Spectrum magazine. 

 

 

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