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March 2017 - St. Patrick

St. Patrick’s Day is Friday. Traditionally, the life and ministry of this hero of the faith is honored every year by turning rivers green, getting hammered on beer served in shamrock glasses and watching copious amounts of college basketball… just like the church fathers envisioned. For many of us from the protestant wing of Christianity, this might be our only point of reference for this giant of church history.

The truth of the matter is that Patrick was a missionary pioneer. The story goes that Patrick was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16 and spent 6 years in captivity. Eventually, after adapting to the culture and learning the local dialects, he was able to escape his captors and return to Britain. Over the course of time, the Lord put a burden on his heart to return to the origin of his slavery and evangelize the pagans he had once lived among. By the end of his life Patrick began 300 churches and baptized 100,000 Irish men and women.

It is the prayer of Uttermost Sports to have a similar impact on the restricted access countries of the world. We want to move slowly and methodically - being incarnational witnesses rather than tourists. It is our prayer that this approach while slow in the short term, will reap spiritual benefits in the long term. And, like St. Patrick be able to see hundreds of churches planted and thousands of people saved.

Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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April 2017 - Walk Ons

As far as internet videos go, there are generally three categories that never fail to bring me to tears. One, soldier homecomings – especially ones that involve unsuspecting families at halftimes of sporting events; two, deaf babies who hear their parent’s voice for the first time after receiving cochlear implants; and three, walk-ons being awarded scholarships.
 
Of these three, the walk-ons are probably the least significant but they continually tug at my heart strings for a couple of reasons. First of all, this was me 15 years ago. I was a too small/too slow high school athlete who hustled his way onto a college football team as a non-scholarship athlete. My roommates would sarcastically chant “Rudy” any time I entered or exited a room. We walk-ons assume all of the burdens and responsibilities of scholarship athletes with very few of the perks. We slog through practices, film sessions, work-outs and meetings, all on our own dime, purely for the love of the game and the good of the team. We’ll never see the field and never hear our names called, but it’s the experience that’s worth the grind.
 
Secondly, on those rare occasions when walk-ons are awarded scholarships, I believe it taps into something spiritual (such is the nature of good news), something well beyond college finances and amateur athletics. Every time we see a kid who has existed on the fridges of the athletic department, get handed a letter informing him that his college is now paid for, we see a glimpse of the gospel. We are witnessing the outsider becoming an insider, the stranger being welcomed in, the peripheral being treated as primary.

These walk-ons are not promoted and valued because of their talent and accomplishment; in fact, it is exactly their lack of talent and accomplishment that creates the context for this grace in the first place. That’s what makes grace amazing.
 
Gets me every time.
 
“You were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  Eph 2:12-13
 

Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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February 2017 - Hope and Spring Training

Hope and Spring Training

My wife lost her dad ten years ago this February. Life has a different rhythm now; a new cadence of forging ahead while pausing to look back. Grief, we’ve learned, runs at its own pace. February is a bittersweet blend of painful reminders and happy memories – perhaps the sweetest of which are the Tulip Trees.
 
Every year around mid-February, the as the Tulip Trees would begin to bud,  my father-in-law would point out (with clock-like precision) that this horticultural phenomenon was the sign that pitchers and catchers were getting close to reporting to spring training. Spring training, of course, being the ultimate harbinger of hope for baseball purists like himself. It’s the season before the season, where optimism reigns supreme and fans can whole-heartedly declare that this will finally be the year that we win it all.
 
It’s a sweet memory, one that’s exclusive to friends and family who knew my father-in-law and his love of baseball. But that unique memory pivots to the wider truth behind this season – the theological fact that death is not the end. Those tiny, spring blossoms act as an annual reminder of the Gospel – that through the death of Jesus, we all have new life.
 
This February, as winter begins to melt into spring, remember the hope of pitchers and catchers as they report to spring training… remember that fresh blooms on old limbs reflect the good news that death was not strong enough to keep Jesus in the ground. Remember that every single year, without exception, the death of winter gives way to the new life of spring and that the resurrection of our Lord points to the future restoration of all things.

"O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."    1 Cor 15:55-57


Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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January 2017 - Super Bowl 51

Its official, the Atlanta Falcons will play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51 on February 5 in Houston, TX. The Super Bowl is the primary example of the scope and power of modern sports in our time.

Take these stats, for example:

  • The Super Bowl is the most watched sporting event in the world.
  • There will be an estimated 116.5 million viewers in the USA alone.
  • That accounts for about 72% of all houses in the USA.
  • 30 second commercials begin at 5 million dollars.

For all intents and purposes, Super Bowl Sunday is a national holiday. People - both casual sports fans and die hards alike - will tune in across the world to watch a sport most of the world doesn't  even understand.

25 years ago, Uttermost Sports recognized the phenomenal reach of sports and began to design a model of missional engagement around this unique platform. Sports has proven to be a brilliant method of cultural engagement, worldwide but particularly helpful in restricted access countries.

This year, as you organize chip and dip platters, rate each commercial and judge Bill Belichick's sideline wardrobe, pause for a moment a pray to the God of the harvest to send out more sports professionals to be missionaries in incredibly difficult parts of the world.


Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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December 2016 - The Bizarre Plot of Christmas

The Bizarre Plot of Christmas.

I re-watched Back to the Future recently... turns out that movie is pretty weird. Its quirky and charming but when you try to explain the basic plot to someone who hasn't seen it, you end up sounding ridiculous.

For example: the protagonist is a 17-year-old high school kid named Marty McFly who's best friend is Doc, a 60-year-old, disgraced, nuclear physicist who invents a time machine. A glitch forces Doc to double cross some terrorists so he can get his hands on some plutonium because that’s the only power source capable of producing the 1.21 gigawatts needed to power the time machine (obviously). So these terrorists want their plutonium back and they come after Doc and Marty and in all the commotion, Marty escapes but is inadvertently sent back to the year 1955; forcing him to figure out how to get “Back to the Future” without disrupting the early stages his parents’ romantic relationship so that eventually they will get together and concieve him.

Such a bizarre concept. Perhaps only trumped by the acutal events of Christmas. Because when you explain the plot of Christmas out loud... it sounds pretty ridiculous as well.

An infinitely powerful, morally perfect, creator God enters the world as a human... but not as a conquering king or a political leader, not even as an adult. The God of the universe enters the world as a Jewish infant, born into poverty. That infant grows up in obscurity for 30 years, He gives no speeches, performs no miracles. He then selects 12 blue-collar peasants to invest his time and energy in and after his public ministry begins - really at the height of his popularity, right when his message is starting to gain traction - He’s murdered. And all of this was done for the expressed purpose of saving people who do not deserved to be saved.

The story of Christmas could almost pass as the brain child of 80's sci-fi screenwriters. Except, of course, that it's not fictional. It actually happened. God took on flesh and moved into our neighborhood so that he could redeem and save us.

That really happened! God is with us!

May we never forget how wierd, bizarre and perfect Christmas is.

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Merry Christmas,

Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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November 2016 - Seeds

Seeds.

In the Scriptures, the metaphor used to illustrate the advancement of the Kingdom is primarily agrarian. First century agriculture, as an industry, seems frustratingly inefficient, which is why its incredibly accurate. Sometimes the soil is good, the time is right and fruit is inevitable (Mark 4:8). Other times the seeds have virtually no chance - the conditions simply won’t allow it (Mark 4:4-7). Still other scenarios suggest that God allows both good and bad growth to happen along side each other (Matt 13:30).

The restricted-access areas where we work prove these descriptions to be spot on. This is difficult work, even under ideal conditions; much less corrupt governments, arbitrary policies and spiritual warfare.

These agricultural word pictures shape both our physical approach and spiritual posture. Like a farmer who plows the fields and pulls the weeds - there has to be a mixture of skill, knowledge and proximity that is vital. And yet simultaneously, there is a complete reliance on the Lord to provide growth. 

Uttermost Sports lives at the intersection of skillful strategy and total dependence, working the land in less-than-ideal conditions, praying for rain...

"And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."  Luke 10:2

 
Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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October 2016 - Hope, foreign and domestic...

Hope, foreign and domestic...

God is great, glorious, gracious and good. Annoying alliteration aside, that statement is theologically mind-blowing. God is powerful and sovereign while simultaneously being gentle and patient. He is not a harsh dictator who is only interested in the production of slaves nor is He only warm and fuzzy with no power to enforce justice or stop evil. He is both. He is a warrior, but he’s a warrior that stoops down to wash your feet. This is a uniquely Christian idea, resulting in unique peace and hope.

Peace, because we understand that He is sovereign, which according to Scripture, is God’s absolute and total control over all things – not some things or even most things – all things. From the macro-creation of solar systems to the micro-care of sparrow flight plans, God is intimately, lovingly, solely in control. And when your work routinely takes you to countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and China it is helpful to have a truth like this. The task is too difficult and the odds are too long to attempt this work otherwise. Missionary work in restricted-access countries necessitates a robust understanding of God’s sovereignty. We work hard but sleep well.

And hope - because what we see at home and abroad, is anything but hopeful; the largest refugee crisis since World War II, the entrenchment of Islamic terror groups, the steady decline of orthodox Christianity across the West and a polarized United States that will elect a historically unpopular candidate in November. Hope because our faith is not based on what we see. Hope that the same God we trust to ultimately redeem the chaos of the Middle East will also watch over the American electorate.

As Uttermost continues its work overseas and political uncertainty unfolds at home, we can rest knowing that He is both powerful and gentle. He has never been limited by parties or nominees. He is certianly not surprised by court vacancies or panicked over nuclear codes. He is utterly, completely, fully in control of every aspect of this world both foreign and domestic. The same God that freed Israel despite Pharaoh also spoke tenderly to the prostitute. The same God that advanced Christianity despite Nero also embraced the tax collector.

We are in good hands.
 
Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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September 2016 - Right to Play

Article 24 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that humans have a right to rest, leisure and a reasonable limitation of work. In essence, the right to play is not a privilege reserved for the elite but a basic right for everyone. Article 24 rightly insists that people are human beings – not human doings. Their value simply comes from who they are not what they can accomplish. So the 9-year-old working 16-hour shifts in a sweat shop, the girl living under Sharia law with no access to physical education and the wheelchair bound student with no special programming are all functionally being treated as sub-human.
 
Play is not only fun, healthy and educational but is a foundational part of our humanity. We are not robots whose sole purpose is to produce. And we are not garbage that can be discarded or pushed into the background. Rest and recreation is a universal reminder of what we really are. When we forget this fact, when we functionally treat humans as either robots or garbage, our history becomes incredibly dark.
 
This is the point Jesus makes when he discusses the Sabbath in Mark 2. The Sabbath was made for man to enjoy, rest and remember his origins as a beloved creation - not to add another layer of religious duty onto tired people. When Jesus heals people in the New Testament, it is not only to alleviate their pain (though it certainly did) but it points to a time when the Kingdom of Heaven will invade earth and there will be no disabilities or restrictions anymore. The miracles of Jesus illustrate life... as it is in heaven.
 
This is a huge part of Uttermost Sports’ workload around the world. Adaptive sport camps, Paralympic events, programming for women, girls and refugees, all of it is done in an effort to work in light of this Sabbath - this reign of Jesus, that will one day cover the entire world the way waters cover the sea.
 
 
Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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August 2016 - Power of Sport

For two weeks every four years the world sees the basic operating principle of Uttermost Sports in action - the power of sport to unite. Nations collectively exhale, relaxing just long enough to celebrate athleticism over policy, skill over debate, talent over division. In a very real sense the Olympics act as a type of international ceasefire.

In a complicated and messy world that is usually divided into the haves and have-nots, there is something beautiful and universally attractive about the simplicity of sport. The pool is 50 meters long, the hurdles are 42 inches tall, the beam is 4 inches wide. Money, ethnicity, geography are not incentives or deterrents in this world.

The displaced refugee and the professional phenom are equalized - each bound by the parameters of competition. War torn countries, impoverished delegations and wealthy superpowers all converge - each sharing the same goal, each bound by the same rules. That is the power of sport.

What if that power were leveraged? What if that power opened doors to countries who normally keep outsiders at arm's length? How could that be used to advance the kingdom of heaven?

It seems clear that war ravaged Syria, financially unstable Puerto Rico and mega power United States all found ways to assemble, train and send teams to Rio - sports matter and because they matter that provides a platform and an opportunity for long term, meaningful, missional engagement.

This week as you watch the Olympics, pray that God would continue to use our 50+ sports professionals scattered around the globe to spread the gospel through this unique and powerful medium.

Bubby Bryan, DOC

Uttermost Sports

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July 2016 - Lament

In the social media age we have the capability of being updated instantaneously. We have breaking news, real-time scores, and emergency alerts literally in the palms of our hands. But what we have gained in speed we have lost in nuance. Tragedies can be reduced to headlines. People can be reduced to hashtags. The digital climate has a tendency to generalize and polarize -- and that can create false dichotomies. 

Choose: #backtheblue or #blacklivesmatter.

Job's friends did this. The Pharisees did this. They tried to trap Jesus and force him into a box. He would have none of it. His followers don't have to either.

The Bible has an incredible tradition of lament for times of tragedy and confusion. Brutally honest. Aggressively confrontational. Helpless yet hopeful prayers and songs. Scripture has room for these mixed emotions, paradoxes, and questions. Not only do these laments give us permission to approach God in an unpolished, raw manner but also rightly keeps God on His throne. As Evelyn Underhill once wrote, "If God were small enough to be understood, He wouldn't be big enough to  be worshipped..."

There will be more bombs in airports. There will be more gunshots in the streets. We should make time to mourn -- to weep with those who weep. And then to implore God to act. Beg Him to return. We should lament well. He can handle it.

"How long O Lord..." Psalm 13:1


Bubby Bryan, DOC

Uttermost Sports

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June 2016 - Ramadan

Over the next few weeks roughly 1.6 billion Muslims around the world will participate in Ramadan - an annual season of prayer and fasting designed to draw followers closer to Allah. Engaging in Ramadan activities is one of the five pillars of Islam (along with the Testimony of Faith, Prayer, Charitable Giving and the Pilgrimage to Mecca). 

Over 50% of our Uttermost partners operate in predominately Muslim contexts - so this yearly ritual not only has a far-reaching cultural impact (that our sports programming must take into consideration) but also a huge spiritual impact on the people our representatives and affiliates are called to serve.

Despite the lack of teachers, access to the Bible and fierce government persecution, thousands of Muslims experience Isa (Arabic for Jesus) in dreams and visions every year. Quantifiable data in this area is difficult to calculate but there are estimates that suggest as many as 5% of Muslims experience dreams or visions of Jesus - if that number is accurate that means 80 million Muslims have had a supernatural encounter with the risen Jesus and are in need of teaching, clarification and pastoral care.

So for the remainder of Ramadan, across our various Uttermost social media outlets and web platforms we will be posting reminders, prayer suggestions and even sports mission opportunities for you to consider. Join us in praying that Jesus - the premier and original missionary would reveal himself to the Muslim world.

"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old me shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions..." Joel 2:28

Bubby Bryan, DOC

Uttermost Sports
 

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May 2016 - Viral

In this edition of the Uttermost Newsletter I would like to compare two social media posts that I came across this week. One you might have seen - I say that because over 114 million people already have! A Dallas woman posted a 4-minute video of her laughing hysterically alone in her car over a Chewbacca mask that automatically growls.  It's hilarious! She can't stop herself. The whole thing is so silly yet authentic that it is genuinely heartwarming.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3yRv5Jg5TI

What began as a funny post on Facebook for a small group of friends became a bonafide internet sensation. Within a few hours the video was shared and re-shared over and over again, gaining momentum every step of the way. Soon, not only was the content of the video newsworthy but it's viral reputation was too. It became the most viewed video in the history of Facebook Live. The Chewbacca mask sold out online. The woman was a guest on Good Morning America the next day!

The second post I saw was a tweet from the editor of a Christian publication which simply read:

"1970s - There is not a single Christian left in China (report from visiting US delegation).
2016 - 60,000,000+ Christians in China."

Something happened in China that can only be explained in viral internet video terms. The Gospel was shared. And then re-shared and then re-shared some more. And it was shared in a way that was authentic and appropriate. It wasn't "click bait," it wasn't forced. It was legitimately shared because it was legitimately good. And it started with incarnational missionaries. 

This week, Uttermost leadership, our global representatives and new partners are descending on Italy for a week of fellowship, refreshment and strategic planning - the goal of which is to make the Gospel go viral in restricted access contexts.

We have seen it happen. We are asking God to make it happen again. Take a moment this week and pray for our staff as well as our reps in the field.

 
Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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April 2016 - Bridges and Cures

On March 23, President Obama, along with former Yankee great Derek Jeter, attended a baseball game together. Not a banner headline in and of itself as politicians rub shoulders with athletes all the time. But this game was different. This game was in Cuba.

This was the first Presidential visit to Cuba in 88 years, and it revolved around an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National team. This baseball scrimmage was designed to be the public face of a new policy aimed at normalizing relations with Cuba.

Certainly this was not without controversy. For Cuban Americans (many of whom consider themselves exiles rather than immigrants), these images coming out of Havana were understandably disconcerting. The President of the United States shaking the same hand that ordered the execution of political protesters is a tough pill to swallow. And yet it seems clear that the embargo hasn’t worked. Most political analysts would agree that sanctions have only hurt the Cuban people, while leading to no actual political change.

It's time for a new strategy to be attempted. Bridges must be built. Common ground must be sought. And for two nations separated by only 90 miles, our shared national pastime seems to be the logical place to start. Cuba has produced 100 big league players since 1959. They have won 3 gold and 2 silver Olympic medals since 1992. Despite the poverty, violence, and corruption, baseball has remained a passion for the Cuban people. To quote one of the great sports movies of all time, Field of Dreams, “the one constant through the years has been baseball.”

Baseball is not strong enough to be the cure but it can be the bridge. Just like basketball clinics in Baghdad and wrestling camps in Azerbaijan and soccer tournaments in Vietnam. These are all means to an end -- like tools in the hand of a physician. The Gospel is the only hope, not only for lasting social change, but also for eternal joy. The extravagant love of a Father who gives everything to save rebels is a powerful message. It only needs messengers and bridges. And once people hear this good news... “they will come, they will most definitely come.”
 
 
Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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March 2016 - Selection Sunday

Selection Sunday was this past weekend. The day where nervous college basketball programs across the country wait to see if/where they will be seeded in this year’s NCAA Tournament. A selection committee sits in a room and compares strength-of-schedules, road records, and conference championship runs in an effort to pick the best field of 68.

There are the blue blood programs (Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky) that always seem to be at the top. There are the up-and-comers anxious to dethrone the kings (Oklahoma, Oregon, Miami). And then there’s the annual debate of comparing the over-achieving little guys (Butler, Wichita State, Gonzaga) with the mediocre big boys (Maryland, Purdue, Iowa State, Wisconsin).

These comparisons and debates are what make March Madness awesome – this is what makes millions of casual college basketball fans obsessed for an entire month! This is what makes office pools and bracket challenges so fun (I fully intend to repeat as the Uttermost office champ)!

And... this is how most people assume Christianity works.

Most people live as though God is sitting in his heavenly office with print outs of believer’s resumes – ready to hand down his rankings, eager to see who will emerge as the best rule followers and tithers.

The only problem with this view of Christianity is the Bible.

The Apostle Paul never actually uses the word “Christian” in his writings to describe people who follow Jesus. Over 160 times Paul refers to Christians as people “in Christ.” For Paul, to be a Christian is to be in Christ. That is the essence of Christianity. There is a special attachment or union with Jesus where by we receive all his perfect blessings and he receives all our shameful sins. Our fusion or connection to Christ results in our justification (Rom 8:1), glorification (Rom 8:30), sanctification (1 Cor 1:2), adoption (Gal 3:26), and election (Eph 1:4). In short, every part of the Christian life is based on Jesus’s resume not our resume. His life, death and resurrection is the basis of our salvation not our efforts, works or attempts.

This is what Paul meant when he said “it is by grace who have been saved...”

This March, as you watch 12 seeds advance and 1 seeds fall, be reminded that your salvation is based on, and secured with, Jesus' perfect and finished work on your behalf.


Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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February 2016 - Peace that Surpasses Understanding

Three years ago this week I joined the Uttermost Sports staff in Norman, Oklahoma. As a native Texan, I failed to take into account that when you gain residency in Oklahoma, it becomes obligatory under state law to cheer for Oklahoma’s lone professional team – the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

My fandom started casually enough, I appreciated KD and Russ’ talent and after several deep playoff runs my interest in the team was solidified. Today, per my usual routine, I was driving to work listening to sports radio; and I heard a clip of Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams that absolutely stunned me. Coach Williams didn’t comment on free throw percentages or upcoming road games or injury reports. The audio that I found so captivating didn’t even involve basketball.

The audio was from Monty Williams’ wife’s funeral. Ingrid Williams died in a car accident last week leaving behind 5 young kids. Coach Williams delivered a brief eulogy for his late wife in front of a crowd largely composed of Thunder team members and support staff. Coach Williams was composed, brave and gracious in what assuredly was one of the most raw and painful moments of his life.

He spoke of God’s faithfulness to work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28). He had the maturity and self-awareness to offer sympathy and forgiveness for the family of the driver in the accident who was at fault. It was abundantly clear that Coach Williams was operating with a power and a perspective that superseded grief, confusion and fear. More amazing still, was the response of the sports commentators – who simply didn’t have categories to process how the Gospel creates peace in the midst of sorrow.

As I sat in the parking lot, fighting back tears, it occurred to me (again) how the Lord uses sports (or more accurately – relationships built as a result of sports) to bring people together. Sports is not the hero of this story, Jesus is. Sports is simply the funnel that filtered a group of people into a room to witness the Gospel overwhelm sadness.

A grieving man’s seven-minute eulogy is not a strategy or a method or a system. It is simply a public overflow of a personal conviction in the context of relationship. The  Kingdom of Heaven – be it in Oklahoma City or Kabul, Afghanistan will be advanced by people with the same powerful convictions scattering all over the world – ready to give an account of their faith when the weight of this fallen world touches us all.

May it be so.

http://www.nba.com/thunder/video/wordofthanks_williams_160218

Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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January 2016 - Stirred Up

It’s midway through January. Bowl games are behind me. The soreness of getting back into the gym is starting to wear off and my 2016 attempt at reading through the Bible is in full swing (again).

This year’s plan (and last year’s and the year before that...) has me beginning in the Minor Prophets; and so for the first time since last January, I read Ezra.

This time, a phrase jumps out: “everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go...”

This year is unique for Uttermost Sports in that we have new opportunities in new places with new partners. At the same time, 2016 holds the same mission and vision as the last 20 years have – to place gospel witnesses in restricted-access contexts through sports programs.

What we are praying for, what we are dependent on, is that this year more than any other, God would stir the spirit of the people. May 2016 be the year that God stirs up people to go serve unreached people groups. May 2106 be the year that God stirs up people to financially support this work. May 2016 be the year that believers are burdened to pray for fruit to be produced in these difficult places.

And like Ezra, may 2016 be the year where the work that is done leads to the joy of the people.

Ezra 6:22 “for the Lord had made them joyful... so that he aided them in the work of the house of God.”
 
http://uttermostsports.org/give


Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

 

 

 

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December 2015 - Merry Christmas

Last week I had an epiphany. There I was, sitting on my couch, watching a football game on TV while checking the score of another game on my phone, while also shopping online for my wife’s Christmas present, while simultaneously wearing a watch that tells me how many calories I just burned (or didn’t burn). And to be perfectly honest, I was a little annoyed how long everything was taking.

Then it hit me.

The Jetson-level technology that surrounds my modest house affords me access and convenience virtually unprecedented to mankind. It really was stunning to take a moment and reflect on the fact that most people in most places would be absolutely floored by the amount of NASA-approved gear that made my lazy Saturday afternoon possible.

In the grand scheme of things, it really is ridiculous that such mind- blowing, earth-shattering, space-age technology has become underwhelming.

Theologically, we can see Christmas the same way. Most people in most places understand that there is a distance between God and people – between the creator and the creation. This distance has made communication brief, impersonal, and cold; and virtually limited to rules, laws, and commands. Thus the rise of prophets, oracles, and angels – the third party mediators that do most of the talking for God. But not anymore. Hebrews tells us that now, ultimately, finally, perfectly, God has spoken to us through his Son.

This is stunning.

For thousands of years, millions of people knew God only through silence or a pillar of fire or rituals, but now God has decided He isn't satisfied with that distance any longer. He is not content to just dispense information about his character anymore. So He has decided to come down and move into our neighborhood to teach us how to fully be human and, ultimately, die for us.

Christmas, as a theological concept, is ridiculous! It is mind-blowing, earth-shattering good news that God is with us. Perhaps we have become so familiar with the idea of Emmanuel that it has become underwhelming.

But for the millions of people living in the 10/40 Window, this good news isn’t known and it certainly isn't celebrated. As 2015 winds down, consider giving to Uttermost Sports as we continue to spread this ridiculous and wonderful idea that "God is with us!"

http://uttermostsports.org/give

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...” John 1:14

Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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November 2015 - Giving Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances.”And so, as Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself preparing stock answers for the obligatory question that will inevitably be brought up at family gatherings, church services, and small groups... 

“What are you thankful for this year?”

Certainly, I have plenty to be thankful for. A thoughtful inventory of my life would result in the obvious conclusion that I am blessed far beyond what I deserve. But if I’m honest, that is not the default position of my heart.

My list of thanks is clumsily being formed while my list of worries is readily available. Instinctively, my heart drifts towards a friend recently diagnosed with cancer, a couple struggling through the adoption process, my own marital stress, and the general bumps and bruises that come with ministry.

Additionally, it almost feels inappropriate to be grateful at a time when evil seems to have the upper hand. The recent terror attacks in Paris have shaken people to their core. France has not witnessed this level of violence since World War II. Mass murder is supposed to be limited to the third world deserts of collapsing countries, not tourist destinations and first world capitals.

What good can come from this? And how can anyone be thankful in light of these events?

Then I remember who actually wrote "give thanks in all circumstances." It was a religious extremist who had systematically terrorized those who disagreed with his beliefs. This Thanksgiving, as we process both our personal and global concerns, let us not forget the unbelievable fact that the man who wrote 1 Thessalonians was once a terrorist.

Jesus is still in the business of changing Sauls into Pauls. He loves rebels and outcasts, enemies and doubters like you and me. There is no situation that is too bleak, no night too dark, and no soul too far away.

And for this, I am thankful.
 
"Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near..." Eph. 2:12-13

Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

 

 

 

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October 2015 - Wolves Change Rivers

Wolves Change Rivers

A number of years ago, Yellowstone National Park began to experience a decline in wildlife and vegetation. Grasslands were overrun with an increasing population of deer and elk, leaving the land barren. The exhausted soil could not support new growth, causing riverbanks to collapse and root systems to fail. Gradually, the intertwined ecosystems began to deteriorate.

Counter intuitively, it was the timely addition of an unpopular predator that led not to further destruction, but to a healthy resurgence. After many years, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, launching what ecologists refer to as a trophic cascade.

A single pack of wolves began to thin out deer and elk herds. But hunting their natural prey was not their only contribution. The wolves’ presence alone shifted the migration patterns of the deer, giving grasslands and prairies time to regrow. Trees were given time to sprout new buds – some quintupling in size. New forests literally began to take root. The new trees and shrubs provided habitats for rabbits, muskrats, and gophers. Beavers had new timber to build dams, which created pools and gullies for fish and frogs to multiply. The presence of these small animals attracted eagles and hawks back to the area.

Perhaps most significantly, the new growth changed the ground itself. The rejuvenated soil strengthened the riverbanks, increasing the volume and speed of the river. Gradually the river carved out new areas and patterns of flow.

A single pack of wolves changed the physical geography of Yellowstone National Park.

This trophic cascade seems to suggest that the Lord orchestrated His creation in such a way that a small group, simply doing what they were created to do, has the power to change entire landscapes. Can it be, under the sovereignty of God and the leading of the Spirit, that a small group of sports professionals, simply by doing what they love to do, could see the spiritual landscape of entire regions change? Could we see places of spiritual oppression, economic decline, and political corruption sprout new life – and that life protect and provide for other new life to the extent that a gospel culture takes root and changes the very foundations of earth?

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.”  Isaiah 43:19-21
 
Bubby Bryan, DOC
Uttermost Sports

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September 2015 - Baseball and Sabbath

Last week marked the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11. Fourteen years have passed since commercial airliners we’re high-jacked and crashed into targets in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, taking the lives of almost 3,000 people, causing 10 billion dollars worth of structural damage and ultimately 3 trillion dollars in total costs. In addition to these tangible losses, September 11 was the defining cultural event of a generation, affecting the political, religious, military and financial agendas of millions of people.

In the immediate aftermath, our nation was shaken; third world violence had invaded a first world epicenter. Tuesday mornings were no longer safe, airports and subways were now suspicious. No one was sure of how to navigate this new world. The danger and anxiety was so palpable it seemed normalcy would never reappear.

But a week later, as the literal dust was still settling in lower Manhattan, sports returned. The slow, methodical, strategic nature of baseball could not be further removed from the urgency of fire fighters and ambulances. Like a bowl of soup after a fever or a pint of ice cream after a break up, the comforting change of pace allowed America to breath again.

The last fourteen years have seen wars fought, cities rebuilt and memorials erected. The most important topics at the highest levels of authority have been debated and implemented but it was a children’s game that initiated the healing of a nation.

Sports are not urgent, sports are not essential; sports are normal and normalcy is essential. People need sports to retreat and play. People need a way to Sabbath. It’s in that space where we learn, grow and heal (especially in regions where terrorism occurs more than every 14 years) There will always be pain – be it national terrorism or personal business but people will always need space to recharge and in that moment, when fresh air is offered, people will be receptive to good news, potentially even Good News.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

 
Bubby Bryan
Director of Communications
 
 
 
 
 

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