James McCann – Mark 10:27

 

James McCann

Detroit Tiger Catcher, James McCann.  Photo by Keith Allison

 

1-in-4.

Jim and Carla McCann were a Christian couple living in Southern California.  About 5 years into their marriage, they were ready to start a family.  Carla became pregnant, and, for nearly 9 months, everything was perfect.  About 3 days before he was due to be born, the boy stopped kicking.  Carla went to the doctors and learned that her greatest fear had become reality; her baby boy had died in the womb.

The doctors told the young couple that they could try again, but that it would likely take a long time for her to conceive, due to the trauma her body had just experienced.  A few months later, however, she was expecting another baby.

13 weeks into the pregnancy, Carla receive terrible news.  She had suffered a tear in the amniotic sac.  The child in her womb was given a 1-in-4 chance of surviving.  Even if he did survive, however, he was almost certain to be born with mental or physical disabilities.  They were given their options and advised to have an abortion.

Carla tells Jason Beck of mlb.com; “Being people of faith, we decided we were going to see it through.  It was a leap of faith, but it really wasn’t more than what other people do every day – putting one foot in front of the other.”

Only Carla didn’t take many steps at all for the next 6 months.  She stayed in bed, watching a lot of Lakers games and a lot of Dodgers baseball games.  She jokes that she named her son James after James Worthy, and knew he would be a baseball fan because of how much baseball she watched.

On June 13, 1990, Carla gave birth to a healthy baby boy!  He had no physical handicap.  No mental handicap.  When she first saw her newborn child, her first words to him were “not bad for a 1-in-4 chance.”

That child grew up to be an All-American Catcher at the University of Arkansas.  He became the 76th overall pick for the Detroit Tigers in the 2nd Round of the 2011 draft.  He made his major league debut on September 1, 2014, and became the Tigers starting catcher the following year; pretty impressive for a man that was never supposed to be born in the first place!

James McCann knows why this all happened.  It was all a gift from God.  He now includes his favorite Bible Verse, Mark 10:27, along with the autographs he signs.  Jesus says “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”  This verse is very personal to McCann.  He explained in an interview with Liberty University; “From day one, the doctors said it was impossible.  That’s man telling my parents it was impossible.  And, obviously, God had other plans… But when you put your faith in God and you trust in god, He has a bigger and better plan that that.”

In Galatian 6:17, Paul says that he bears in his body the marks of Jesus.  He urges the Christians in Galatia that, when they gaze upon the scars from the beatings he suffered for trying to preach the Gospel, they should be reminded of the wounds that Jesus suffered for them on the cross.  Likewise, the life, health, and success of James McCann serve as a daily reminder of the power of God.  To Him, all things are possible; even what man says is impossible.

Stephen Vogt – Colossians 3:23

Stephen Vogt

Milwuakee Brewer’s Catcher, Stephen Vogt – photo by Keith Allison

No one ever seemed to notice Stephen Vogt.

Vogt grew up in Visalia, southern California city just south of Fresno.  His father, Randy, was a coach for Fresno State.  Stephen attended Central Valley Christian, a relatively small private school.  Though he had a solid high school career – including stealing 58 bases, he received very little attention from schools, outside of a few local community colleges.

There was one exception.  A small Christian university near Los Angeles, called Azusa Pacific University.  Though, the truth is, they didn’t really notice Vogt either.  While most people at Azusa Pacific had never heard of Stephen Vogt, one of their coaches was charged with finding ten players to recommend.  Vogt was one of the ten.  The coaches quickly did their research, and were impressed.

Vogt enrolled at Azusa Pacific, and had a stellar career.  While it certainly wasn’t the biggest school, attending Azusa Pacific turned out to be a huge blessing.  Vogt explained in an interview with the Alabama Baptist (subscription required); “I came into my faith.  I just kind of took it for granted until I got to college.  Being a Christian is not easy.  If it were easy, everybody would do it.  You are held to live to God’s standards of the world.”

Vogt not only grew in his faith – he also grew as a player.  He had been so successful that, by the end of his junior year, he thought we would be headed to the pros.  Just before the draft, coach Paul Svagdis went to a local sporting goods store, purchased every major league cap he could find, hoping that he had found the one for the team that would draft Vogt.  He didn’t.  By the end of the draft, no one had selected him.

That didn’t stop young Stephen Vogt.  If no one had noticed him before, he’d make sure they knew his name by the next draft.  Vogt came back for his senior year and put together an incredible season.  He hit .476, slugged .784, hit 14 homers, and drew just 17 strikeouts in 227 at bats.  That’s the type of season that usually makes you a high draft pick.

It didn’t.  Vogt was considered to have mediocre physical tools, questionable defense, and was downgraded for having played for a smaller college program.  He wasn’t drafted until the 12th round of the 2007 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.

As usual, Vogt worked extremely hard.  In his first minor league season he hit .300 while playing short season single A ball.  The next season, he moved up to full season single A and hit .291.

But then 2009 happened.  In his second full minor league season, Vogt suffered a torn labrum.  Again, Vogt saw God at work in an unexpected way in his life.  He says, “God definitely took baseball away from me on purpose.  Baseball was becoming too much in my life.  I was not Stephen Vogt the man of God.  I was Stephen Vogt the baseball player.  God really tested me to see where my alliances were.  I learned my identity is not what I do for a living; it’s who I am as a person.  Baseball doesn’t define me.”

Vogt came back in 2010, and hit an impressive .345 in the Single A – Advanced level.  Still, however, scouts were largely unimpressed.  At 25, he was old for the level he was in, and was still criticized for his defense.

But, in 2011, he continued to hit in AA, hitting .301, and finally attracted some attention.  He saw success in AAA in 2012, and the big leagues were just around the corner.

He finally reached the majors with Tampa in 2013, but, for the first time in his young career, he struggled.  He saw only 25 at bats in the 4 months he spent on the roster.  In those 25 at bats, he didn’t record a single hit.  With a lifetime batting average of .000 after his first season, the Rays designated him for assignment.  Vogt had gone from unnoticed to unwanted.

That summer, Vogt received a phone call that would change his life.  He’d learned that his contract had been purchased by the Oakland Athletics for a measly $150,000.

In Oakland, everything changed.  It took some time, but Vogt eventually became a key part of the A’s team.  He was selected to the American League All-Star team in both 2015 and 2016.  He also received the A’s “Dave Stewart and Jim “Catfish” Hunter award, which recognizes service in the Oakland community, and was nominated by the A’s for Major League Baseballs Roberto Clemente Award, which is awarded to the player who best represents baseball through contributions on and off the field.  His hard work has paid off!

One of the keys behind Vogt’s success has been continuing to put in hard work, even when no one seemed to notice.  His favorite Bible verse is Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord, and not for man.  He explains; “Every morning I try to ask myself – and I’m not always good at it – “what can I do to further the kingdom of God?  I am not living for me.  I am living for my family and for the Lord.  We live for a greater purpose.  As baseball players, we are put on a pedestal.  We are viewed as celebrities, which we are not.  A lot of kids want to be like us.  Unfortunately there are some bad examples in this game, but as much as possible, I try to be involved with fans and with kids and give back.”

There’s a lesson for all of us in Stephen Vogt’s story.  We’re called to do our best for God, even when no one else is watching.  We don’t perform for them; we perform for Him!

Chris Coghlan – Ephesians 2:8

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Chris Coghlan of the Chicago Cubs.  Photo by John

Chris Coghlan’s life was an ugly mess.

It hadn’t started that way.   Chris was born in 1985, in Rockville, Maryland, to loving parents Tim and Heather Coghlan.  His dad was a police officer.  His mother was a teacher.  They were both hard workers.  Chris had good relationship with his brother, Kevin, and his sisters Katie and Kelly.  When Chris was 9, he moved with his family to Florida.  They were a regular, blue collar family, who loved each other and enjoyed life.

On June 5th, 2001, that all changed.  One evening, Chris was out, having just finished exams, and came home to find a large group of family and friends gathered in his home.  One look at his mother’s face, and he knew right away that something was wrong – that something had happened to his father.  He soon heard the tragic news that his father had been killed in a car accident.

From that moment, his life because an ugly mess.  His once happy home was now filled with tears and sadness.  He didn’t want to be there, so he found a place of refuge; the baseball field.  He recalls in an interview with I AM SECOND, that he would hide out there for hours, just “hitting, and fielding, and hitting, and hitting, and hitting.”  But that couldn’t fill the void in his heart.  When he turned 16, he started drinking.  He started feeling entitled and acting selfishly – like the world owed him something.  He began making bad decisions.  He recalls; “My dad had always taught me what was right and wrong, but I felt like this excuse that everybody felt sorry for me; that I could do whatever I wanted because I had the best excuse.  My world sucked at that time, so I just kept playing baseball and I kept doing the same thing.”

On the inside, Coghlan was an ugly mess.  But on the baseball field, everything looked beautiful.  Coghlan was a star on the field and he was rewarded for it.  In 2003, he was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 18th round of the draft.  He opted not to sign, and instead to accept a scholarship to the University of Mississippi.  He put together a pristine baseball resume; SEC All Freshman team in 2004.  SEC All-Conference second team in 2005.  NCAA 3rd team All-American in 2006.   Then, in 2006, Coghlan was drafted again – this time in the 1st Round by the Florida Marlins.  His dream had come true, and he thought he had everything he wanted.  His success continued, earning him his first invitation to Major League camp for Spring Training in 2008.  Everything seemed beautiful.

It wasn’t.

One night, Coghlan was out late drinking.  He says that – even though he was a professional baseball player with a bright future in front of him, he was so insecure that he had to get drunk just to approach a girl.  He was terrified of being rejected.  He came to camp the next day hung over, reeking of booze, and feeling awful.  Unable to concentrate, he was goofing around, and tried to throw a curve ball – a pitch he doesn’t know how to throw.  The ball sailed out of his hand, flew 90 feet or so away, and hit All-Star Second Baseman Dan Uggla in the cup.  He got yelled out.  He suddenly couldn’t field.  He couldn’t hit.  The next day, he got sent down to the minors.  The one word he used to describe himself was this; “empty.”

Chris Coghlan’s life was an ugly mess.  But God was about to do something beautiful.

Coghlan was walking through the clubhouse one day during minor league camp when he saw teammate Daron Roberts doing something unexpected.  He was carrying a Bible.  “I asked him, I said, ‘what are you reading,’ but I knew he was reading a Bible – I just wanted to see if he was realling going to tell me “yes, I’m reading a Bible.’   He said, ‘are you a man of faith?’  And I said, I’m not.  I believe that there’s a God, but by no means and I living for Him.”

Later that day, Coghlan was out on one of the back fields.  He had chosen not to wear his cleats.  His coach called him out on it, but Coghlan wasn’t about to go run all the way across the fields to get his cleats.  But then, Daron Roberts did something else unexpected.  He ran all the way back to the clubhouse, got Coghlan’s cleats, and ran them all the way back to him.  Coghlan was baffled.  Why would someone he didn’t even know do something like that?  He knew Roberts was different.  He just didn’t know why.

Robert’s act of kindness led to a brief conversation about family.  That conversaton led to an invitation to dinner on St. Patrick’s Day.  That St. Patrick’s Day dinner led to a cup of coffee at Starbucks.  That cup of coffee led to a two hour conversation about the Word of God.

Many Bible Verses were read at that Starbucks.  One of them was Ephesians 2:8.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works so no one can boast.’  Coghlan explained in an interview with Bruce Darnall; That was a huge turning point for me.  Everywhere in this world the message is you have to earn your way to ‘wherever.’  So it seemed just too easy for this great gift of heaven that God promises, but I wanted it.”

That conversation changed Coghlan’s life.  As Coghlan explained in his I AM SECOND interview; “I realized at that time that I wanted God.  I wanted Jesus.  I wanted Him in my life.  I was tired of chasing the wind.  I was tired of chasing these temporary satisfactions that I was having and realizing that every night I really had an empty feeling.  I had an empty feeling inside and I was trying to fill this void with these earthly things – with baseball…  And I wanted God and I wanted Jesus…”

Chris Coghlan was a changed man!  On May 8, 2009, he made his major league debut.  By the end of the season, he was named the National League Rookie of the Year!

Chris Coghlan’s life had once been an ugly mess.  Now?  In a way, it still is.  Coghlan explained to Blessed 2 Play; “I still have sin.  I still have things that I desire for my flesh…  It’s not a testament of what I’ve done…”   He added in an interview with Tom Rust at Face to Face; “To God, it’s not about performing.  And that’s what I love about God.  I just thank Him that He loves all of us so much that He doesn’t love us based on our performance.  Whether I get 3 hits or whether I do something wrong or sin, or whatever it is,   It’s not a performance based love.  And unfortunately, as humans, we love on performance, and that is what is so great about God’s grace and love is that He doesn’t work on that same frequency.

Coghlan came to learn that God loves us, not because of how  beautifully we may live, but in spite of our sin.  He explained to Bruce Darnell; “There is a price to be paid for our sin, and Jesus Christ paid the price on the Cross.  It is a free gift of salvation…  You can do nothing to pretty yourself.  God loves you right where you are.  Let God do the work in your heart…  The Lord has just done mighty things in my life by chiseling away at my heart, revealing sin to me.  I just prayed for new convictions.  It has been a tough journey, but I feel that is the Christian life.  I am grateful that I am one of His!” 

As sinners, each of us is an ugly mess who can do nothing to pretty ourselves. But, by His death on the cross for us, Jesus has washed away all of our filthy, dirty, ugly sin, and has made us beautiful in God’s sight!  No matter how ugly and worthless you may feel on the inside, that’s how you look to God!  God’s children are described in the Bible this way in 1 Peter 2:4; rejected by men, but in the sight of God, chosen and precious.

Jeanmar Gomez – Joshua 1:9

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Unlikely Closer Jeanmar Gomez.  Photo by Erik Drost

Jeanmar Gomez was not supposed to be the closer for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016.

It was supposed to be Ken Giles.  But in December of 2015, Giles was traded to the Houston Astros for a group of prosects which included Vince Velasquez, Mark Appel, Brett Oberholtzer, and Harold Arauz.  After Giles was traded, the Phillies found themselves in need of a new closer.

The new closer was supposed to be David Hernanez.  Hernandez got his crack at the job on Opening Day against the Reds.  He entered the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead, only to allow 3 runs without recording a single out.

Perhaps, then, it would be Dalier Hinojosa.  Hinojosa got his opportunity the on the second game of the season.  He also entered the game with a 2-1 lead over the Reds.  His resultes weren’t much better, as he recorded only one out before allowing 2 runs.

Perhaps the Phillies closer would be Andrew Bailey or Edward Mujica.  Only, after rough springs, neither of them made the big league club.

Perhaps it would be Hector Neris.  Maybe James Russell.

Or, better yet, perhaps it would just be better not to even have one!  John Stolnis of the Phillie’s blog “The Good Phight,” wrote an article in March entitled “Phillies closer-less bullpen can kill the “save.”  He quoted Phillies manager Pete Mackanin as saying this; “Unless I’m 100 percent sure about somebody that I want to call a closer, I’m not going to call anybody a closer.  When you think about it, a closer is somebody you can count on in the ninth inning…  We probably have one.  I’m hoping we have one.  But I’m not going to name one right now.  Just to call a guy a closer doesn’t mean anything.”  Maybe “no one” was better than the options they had.

It turns, though, that Mackinin did have a closer in his clubhouse.  He had a guy he could count on in the ninth.  He had a guy who would become only the 11th man in Phillies history to record 30 saves.  Mackinin had Jeanmar Gomez.

You can’t really fault Mackinin for not seeing what he head in Gomez.  He lacks the typical characteristics closers usually possess.  While most closers have dominant fastballs, Stolnis wrote of Gomez in the preseason; “Jeanmar Gomez doesn’t have the stuff to close…”  While many closers are strikeout pitchers, Gomez is more of a ground ball pitcher.  Pitching coach Bob McClure says of him; “To me, he’s almost like a strikeout pitcher.  With a strikeout pitcher, you’re always thinking, ‘All right, he’ll get a strikeout here and be out of trouble.’ With Jeanmar, you’re thinking ‘All right, he’ll get a ground ball, we’ll get a double play and be out of trouble.’ That’s how well he commands his sinker.”  While many closers have fiery personalities, Gomez is one of the quietest guys in the clubhouse.  Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly says of him; “if humility were a fastball, he’d hit triple digits on the radar gun.” While many closers pump themselves up with heavy metal or energetic hip-hop, Gomez relies on light Christian rock.

Gomez doesn’t have your typical closer stuff.  What he does have, though, is a quiet calm about him.  Jim Salisbury said of him, Gomez has another weapon as closer: his composure.  The ninth inning can fray the nerves of even the most seasoned baseball man.  Sometimes you wonder if Gomez even has a pulse.

Where does it all come from?  Where does Gomez find his strength and his peace?  It all comes from God!  Gomez confesses; “I’m a quiet guy, but I trust in God, and He does the rest.” Before coming to the mound, he says a prayer.  I ask God to take control.  That enables me to stay calm.  Gomez also reads the Bible every day.  One of his favorite passages is Josua 1:9; Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  He explains that “when you have Jesus in your heart you have to be humble.  When He came to earth He wanted simplicity for us.  That enables you to serve others.

Gomez’ story teaches us a valuable truth about Jesus.  Going into the season, no one seemed to recognize who he was or what he could do.  When Jesus began His ministry, few seemed to recognize who He was or what He was going to do either.  As Isaiah 53:2 says about Him; For He grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form of majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.  And yet, Jesus remained strong and courageous.  He calmly and faithfully did the work that God sent Him to accomplish, living the perfect life and going to the cross to pay for our sins.  And, as Gomez does, Jesus did in quietly.  Isaiah 53:7 goes on to say of Jesus; He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.

Calmly, faithfully, quietly, Jesus closed out our salvation.  He won for us eternal life dying on the cross to pay for our sins and conquering our death.  Eternal life became a sure thing as Jesus declared a closer’s words with His dying breath; it is finished!

Collin McHugh – Jeremiah 29:12-15

Collin McHugh delivers a pitch during ALDS Game 1.

Collin McHugh of the Houston Astros – photo by Arturo Pardavila III

Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, New York, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Venezuela.

10 States.  2 Countries.  Packing and moving 19 different times.

Collin McHugh’s situation wasn’t exactly what you would call stable.

McHugh was drafted by the New York Mets in the 18th round of the 2008 amateur draft.  With that, the whirlwind began.  He spent the next five years moving up and down within the Met’s farm system.  He played in Kingsport, TN; Brooklyn, NY; Savannah, GA; Port St. Lucie, FL; Birmingham, NY; Buffalo, NY; Las Vegas, NV; not to mention Fall ball in Peoria, AZ and Winter League in Caracas, Venezuelez.  It was exhausting.  He almost quit.  McHugh said in an interview with Sports Spectrum; “I was just tired and lonely, and over it.  I was just sitting there on my front porch and was thinking to myself, ‘This is it, I’ve got my bags packed and I’m ready to go.’”  McHugh’s wife, family, and friends encouraged him otherwise.  “Stick it out through the rest of this year. “Re-evaluate once the season is over.”  McHugh took their advice, and eventually was rewarded with some playing time with the Mets.  Only, it didn’t last.

In 2013, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies, and the carousel of his life started all over again.  Over next 6 months, he’d hop back and forth between from Tulsa, OK, Colorado Springs, and the big league Rockies in Denver.

It was tough.  He missed his family and friends.  He missed birthdays and weddings; the birth of his niece.  But, most of all, he missed his wife, Ashley.  “Most of all, it’s guilt…  It just starts to wear on you after a while; and when things are going poorly on the field, that’s when everything starts to culminate.”

McHugh’s Christian Faith helped him get through the hard times.  One of the Bible passages he clung to most was Jeremiah 29:12-15; “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.’”

I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you.  Places like Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, New York, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, and Venezuela.

“For me, it always came back to the promise in Jeremiah, and a promise in my life that He has proved over and over again in every big decision I’ve had to make.  When God says, ‘Seek me with all of your heart,’ literally every big decision I’ve had to make—where I’m asking God for wisdom for just a clear head about things—it always comes back to, ‘Seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart, and I will be found by you.’ Just the idea that God is never far off—His answer is never far off, even if things look super weird, like nothing is ever going to work out, the reality is that we will always have that line of communication with Him. It’s never cloaked, and it’s not conditional; it’s just the best, and it’s better than anything you can ask for. For me, that’s something I’ve always been able to go back to.”

God’s answer wasn’t far off.  In the winter of 2013, God called Collin McHugh out of exile.  In December, McHugh was claimed off waivers by the Houston Astros, and his life changed forever.  After a quick AAA stint in Oklahoma City, he was called up to the big league club in Houston, where he would remain on the big league club for 2 years and counting!

Looking back now on the struggles he faced, McHugh sees how he grew in his faith, and learned to trust in God in good times and bad.  He puts it this way in a video interview on mlb.com;

“In baseball, you tend to get knocked down a lot.  There’s a lot of failure.  There’s a lot of struggle…  My wife, Ashley and I were married throughout much of my minor league career, so she saw it first hand, and there are plenty of times our marriage was just hanging by a thread.

Just always understand that whatever circumstances are happening in life, God uses them in certain ways to bring you back, not just to bring you back to high moral ground or to make you do the right things and say the right things.  But remind you that you are taken care of; that you are loved; that you are precious in His sight.  And, in the dark times – in the times where things are rough and you’re kind of sitting there in silence wondering ‘what is going on around me?’  ‘How is this ever gonna get any better?’  A lot of times in my life it’s the only time I really hear Him clearly.  And, unfortunetly, a lot of times it’s when things are the worst – but I would never change it.  I would never ask for anything different because there’s nothing better in my life than hearing God and understanding His love for me on every different level.”

We all have times in life in which we feel like we’re in exile; when we’re far away from where we want to be.  In those moments, remember what God did for His people, when He called them out of exile and brought them back to the Promised Land.  Remember what He did for Collin McHugh, calling him out of the whirlwind and into Houston.  Remember all the times that God has helped you through hard times already, and look forward to His promise to always help His people.  As God says in Jeremiah 29:11; For I know the plans I have you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope.  May we always cling to that promise!

Andrew McCutchen – Romans 8:28

Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Photo by Keith Allison

“Not as much as I should.”

It was August 1st, 2013.  The Pittsburgh Pirates were holding what would become their first annual Faith Night; providing players the opportunity to share their Christian Faith with their fans.  A little boy named Dylan stood before Andrew McCutchen and asked a profound question; “How many times have you read the Bible and how often do you read it?”

McCutchen answered; “Honestly, not as much as I should.”  In Joshua 1:8, the people of Israel were nearing the end of their 40 year trek though the wilderness.  God called Joshua to prepare to lead His people into the Promised Land, giving Him this command; “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  How many of us can truly claim that those words describe us?  How often are we speaking God’s Words?  How often are we meditating on God’s Word?  Our answer to those questions is likely the same as McCutchen’s; “Honestly, not as much as I should!” 

On that warm summer night, McCutchen was not admitting defeat to a challenge too great for us to bear.  Instead, he showed the many ways that he does strive to keep God’s Word on His mouth and in his mind.  He explained how his mom sends him devotions every single day.  He spoke about how he was currently going through a study on the 23rd Psalm.  He explained that devotional time in God’s Word is something that he does every day.

As the evening progressed, another young boy named Ethan asked ‘Cutch’; “What is your favorite memory verse and why?”  His answer; Romans 8:28 – And we know that, in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  He explained to the young boy and to the crowd who listened in; “It just shows you that, no matter what you go through, there’s a reason for it, and it’s always gonna work for your good.  Regardless of how low you are.  Regardless of what you’re going through, He’s gonna see you through it and it’s gonna work together for your good and , you know, everything that we go through as people… that’s something that you always have to look at.  And  you have to think about the times that things weren’t going so good, but God see you through it.  And it always happens.  It always happens because God says so and, you know, God’s not a liar.  So,  that’s something that… that’s a verse that really sticks out to me.”

May we all strive to be in God’s Word daily and thus be reminded of His promises so that we never lose our way and never lose heart!

(If you would like to watch McCutchen answer all of the kid’s questions at the 2013 Faith Night Interview, check it out here)

 

 

Daniel Norris – 2 Peter 3:18

 

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Detroit Tiger’s Pitcher Daniel Norris.  Photo by Keith Allison

Detroit Tiger’s pitcher Daniel Norris is not exactly your typical baseball player.

He doesn’t play for the money but instead strives to keep his life simple.  He was described by ESPN in an article called Man in the Van as a quirky soul who lives by his own code and as a “hippie who has never tried drugs.”  After signing his first contract, and receiving a $2 million signing bonus, Norris prayed to God that the money didn’t change who he was, made donations to his church and to his parents, and set an $800 a month living allowance for himself.  His dream car is his 1978 VW van!

He doesn’t play for the glory but instead strives to to give all the glory to God.  In fact, he was baptized while wearing his baseball jersey!  He explained his reasoning in an interview with the Christian Chronicle; “God blessed me in my ability to play.  I saw it as kind of a way to show God, ‘hey, I see what You’re doing with baseball.  This is an opportunity to give You glory.”

Norris is definitely not your typical baseball player.  So, who exactly is Daniel Norris according to Daniel Norris?  He defined himself in an interview with New London Red like this; “Well, 1st and foremost I am a Christian who doubles as an athlete, not the other way around… I’m passionate about baseball, surfing, and my relationship with God.  I think that true passion consists of a real deep desire to always get better at something.  To always be in seach of opportunities to improve.  Yea, that’s passion.”  On his instagram page, he sets his goals in life as follows; “In search of 3 things: 1. Eternal life, 2. The Strike Zone, 3. Good waves.  2 Peter 3:18 – just keep livin’ *dirtbag*”

In 2 Peter 3:18, the Apostle Peter offers some final words to his dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  His parting words are “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen.”  Norris recognizes that his purpose in life is to give God glory in all that he does.  He explains; “2 Peter 3:18 is my life verse and basically it means to me that everything that comes my way is a gift from God and I always give thanks to Him by turning the glory over to Him.”

That should be the goal for each and every one of us; not to live for our own glory or gain, but to do all things for God.  That was Jesus’ goal in His life as well.  He could have lived for His own glory.  He could have fought to establish an earthly kingdom.  He could have allowed His Disciples to worship Him on the Mount of Transfiguration.  But instead, He gave up everything that God the Father might be glorified.  He showed us that this was His purpose during Holy Week.  As Jesus neared the cross, He prayed in Garden of Gethsemane just before being arrested; “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify Me in your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.”

With Jesus and with Daniel Norris, may we all strive to accomplish the work God gives us to do and humbly and graciously use the blessings He gives us to glorify Him!

Steve Cishek – Colossians 3:23

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Steve Cishek, Relief Pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Photo by Laura Smith

When God first gave the Ten Commandments to His people, He also provided the following instructions; And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).  For Seattle Mariner’s pitchers, Steve Cishek, perhaps we should say it a bit differently; write them on a piece of paper, tuck them in your pocket, and carry them to the pitcher’s mound.

Every time Cishek takes the mound, he carries with him a small, square, laminated piece of paper, tattered and wrinkled on the corners.  On that piece of paper are the words of his favorite Bible verse, Colossians 3:23 – whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for a human master.”  Before facing his first batter, he reads these words.  

Cishek explained to mlb.com’s Jenifer Langosch;  “I could recite it in my head, but pulling it out of my back pocket makes me slow down and take my time a little bit when I just want to go, go, go.  I can sit back and read some scripture to really set my mind and get after it with hitters.”  He added in a JesusnSports interview; “It reminds me that when I am pitching, I can’t pitch to impress our coaches of staff or any team mates. I’m working for God’s glory. With good outings or bad outings He doesn’t care how I pitch. No matter what He loves me. So it takes an enormous amount of pressure off me to perform for a crowd or coaches. And good outing or terrible outing I always thank the Lord for what He has done in my life and for allowing for me to play baseball.”

Whatever we do in our lives, we do well to remember God’s Word from Colossians 3.  We should do nothing in life to bring glory to ourselves.  Instead, we should constantly remember that all that we do is for God and His glory.  That’s the model that Jesus set for us.  He came, not to be served, glorified, or honored, but instead He made Himself nothing that we might be saved. Everything that Jesus did, He worked at it with all His heart, as working for the Lord, not for a human master.