Daily Devotional for Friday August 4, 2006

Some Unique and Special Men of God

(John 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:27,28)

Three years ago on my birthday, my wife told me she had a surprise for me. She said was taking me some place very different. We went out to dinner and afterwards, she drove to the St. Pete Times Forum, the main sports/concert/events arena in Tampa, Florida. The Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team was not playing that night, there wasn't a concert, so I was getting very intrigued about what event we were going to that evening. As we parked in one of the garages and started walking towards the building, I noticed that many of the people had on cowboy hats. As we got closer to the building, I saw the huge banners promoting what was going on that night...professional bull riding!

As a huge sports fan since I was a child, I have been blessed over my life to go to the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA finals, a 7th game of the Stanley Cup finals, world championship boxing matches, NASCAR, the Indianapolis 500, the Rose Bowl, the US Open tennis finals, the Kentucky Derby, an NCAA Final Four, just about every major sporting event except the Masters. However, this was the first time I had ever been to a professional bull riding event and really didn't know what to expect. By the end of the evening I was a big fan of not only the sport, but these athletes who ride bulls for a living.

I tell you all the time, there are no accidents and no coincidences with God! In May of 2005 I was put in contact with a man named Cody Custer who runs a ministry to the professional bull riders and to their millions of fans. What really excited me about what Cody was doing was not just the fact he was ministering to the riders and all the people necessary to operate the PBR events, but using those events as a vehicle to reach the fans of the PBR for Christ. When they are in different cities over the weekend, on Sunday morning they actually have a church service in the arena where they perform for the riders and support personnel, but also for the fans! It was a tremendous way to use this rising sport that is attracting new fans every week as a vehicle to tell people about Jesus!

After we connected in 2005, Cody began to use the Liveprayer Daily Devotional as a tool to help the riders and support people who were on the road so much stay connected each day with the Lord. We had a chance to speak several times, finally meeting and spending some time together this past February when the PBR was back in Tampa. Like in any profession, you have a percentage of people that know and love the Lord, some who are on the fence, and others who simply reject Christ and His love for them. As a former world champion who rode bulls for 19 years and is now a judge at PBR events, Cody is in a unique position to minister to the riders and support personnel as they are on the road each weekend.

Being with Cody that night and meeting many of the riders and the people who run the PBR, it was refreshing to see a sport focused on being wholesome family entertainment that is really gaining in popularity and becoming more mainstream all the time with major corporate sponsors and a contract with NBC sports. The show opens with a moving tribute to the men and women in our armed services, the National Anthem, and then prayer. Yes, prayer. I love it! An arena full of people praying before a major sporting event!

Later that night, Cody and Cory Navarre, a 9-year veteran bull rider who loves the Lord, came on my TV program with me. It was powerful to not only hear, but see these men who are in such a dangerous profession where injury and even death are part of their world, humbly talk about their love for Jesus and all He has meant in their lives. I couldn't help to think of the contrast between the abominable movie "Brokeback Mountain" about gay cowboys, and these strong men I was with last February who ride angry 1800-pound bulls for a living and honor the Lord with their lives!

My message to you men today is simply this. It is OK to love Jesus! I don't know if you could ever have a better definition of a man than these brave cowboys who ride bulls for a living. Loving Jesus does not mean you are a wimp. Loving Jesus does not mean you are weak. Loving Jesus does not mean you are less of a man. As a mater of fact, it takes a REAL MAN to surrender their heart and life to the Lord. Any coward can run from Jesus, it takes a REAL MAN to take a stand and live for Jesus!

I love you and care about you so much. I want to encourage you today, especially the men out there, that society gives us these stereotypical images of what men are supposed to be like. The reality is, men come in all shapes and sizes, with different gifts and talents, different desires and passions, but the common bond all men can share is their faith in Christ. You are not less of a man for following Jesus, you are MORE of a man for following Jesus!

You can't get any tougher than these men who ride bulls for a living. Having played sports all my life, been around athletes at every level, I can assure you that you have to be a man in every sense of the word to ride bulls for a living. It is possibly the most physically demanding and life threatening 8 seconds there is in sports. Yet these were some of the kindest, most gentle, and caring men I have ever been around. Even though what they did for a living was highly dangerous and as physically demanding as any sport you can name, their faith in Christ defined who they really were.

I want you to know today that it is your faith in Christ that defines who YOU are as well. Whether you are a doctor, or lawyer, or CEO, working in a factory, selling cars, building homes, or whatever you may do for a living, what defines who you are is not your job but your relationship with the Lord. At the end of the day when the lights are turned out and you are laying in bed, you are who you are because of Jesus and nothing else.

I will be praying for you today to make that commitment to Christ. Not a half-hearted commitment, not a part-time commitment, but a fully surrendered give-it-all-to-Jesus commitment! Cody and these bull riders are unique men because of what they do for a living, but so are you! God is giving them a great platform to share their faith in Christ with the world, but he gives you a platform in the things you do in your life as well. God has given you the talents and gifts you have, put you in the job you are in, not just to make a living but to serve Him!

As we live in these last days, now more than ever God is calling men to rise up and take their stand for Christ. I encourage you today to take a few moments and recommit your heart and life to the Lord and ask Him to use you as a vessel to reach lost and hurting people with the hope we have in Jesus!!!