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I never really liked sitting on the bench. I had joined the football team because I loved the game, I loved my school, I loved my coaches, I loved the brotherhood that was developed with other players on the team, and I really, really, loved playing in the game and making a contribution toward winning, accomplishing the common goal of everyone on the team.

But here I was...on the bench...and it was my own fault. I wasn’t in the game and I was anguishing over the fact that I was making no contribution at all to the team.

I had been on the bench before, when I was a sophomore. I had been injured in the previous game and had to sit on the bench for the next couple of weeks in street clothes until my high ankle sprain had healed enough for me to resume play. It was weird because I was a part of the team, but I wasn’t. I certainly didn’t feel like a part of the team, because I wasn’t playing in the game and I noticed guys that were playing in the game kind of avoided being over by me. Maybe they thought my injury was going to jump off of me and cling to them and relegate them to the “bench”.

I had noticed during my injury rehabilitation time while relegated to the bench the different kinds of people that populated the bench area while the game was being played. Just to name a few:

There was Bobby Backup. He was on the bench, but he didn’t want to stay on the bench. He wanted to be in the game. During practice, throughout the week, he was a great contributor to the team; learning, and developing, playing on the Scout team, doing whatever he could to prepare himself so that he was ready when the coach gave him the call to get out into the game. He would watch every play and cheer and encourage all the other players until it finally would come time for him to play in the game. For eventually he would play in the game. Usually him not playing was just a matter of it not being his time yet. But no doubt, he was a real contributor to the team effort. He was “engaged”.

Whenever there was a team meeting he listened intently and with great joy as he learned everything he could to make himself a better player.

Then there was David Detached. He was on the bench and he could care less about what was going on in the game. He would look up into the stands and wave at people and find other detached players who were on the team but didn’t want to really be on the team that much and they would just find each other and hang out during the game. He never cared about playing in the game, or about the game at all. Maybe his dad had played in the game and expected him to play for the team. Or maybe, he wanted the recognition of being a part of the team, even though he made no contribution. Or maybe, a buddy had joined the team, so he thought he ought to join it as well. Maybe a pretty girl would be impressed if he was a part of the team. His motivation and “heart” was all wrong. He did the same thing at practice he did during the game; nothing really. I mean, he went through the motions, but really made no contribution at all. Guess he wanted the “letter” for his letterman jacket, but never had the “heart”, the love, the passion, the drive for playing in the game. He would always remain on the bench. He was “disengaged”.

Whenever there was a team meeting he would be bored with what was being said and would find himself drifting off and dreaming about other “stuff” that was really important to him. He didn’t care about what would make him a better player. He was just there, because he was “supposed” to be there.

Then there was Rowdy Ralph. He was on the bench because he had not followed the instructions of the coach and had gone off on his own, thinking he could play the game any old way he wanted to without any repercussions.

That was me on that night. I had blown it. We had practiced all week for a play that Edison would use during the game where their slot receiver would go out into the flat for a pass from their quarterback. Then the quarterback would fake a pass. Then the receiver would turn up toward the goal line and speed past the defender (that would be me on that night) and catch the ball as it floated over the defenders outstretched arms.

What made that play work the best for Edison was when the defender was over aggressive and not willing to wait until the right time to make a break for the football for an interception. And that was me to a “T”. I had this problem of being over-aggressive and not patient...I always wanted an interception. I was proud and loud.

So I disobeyed. I broke on the ball and doing so I had broken a commandment that had been clearly set forth by the coach, who decided who would play in the game and who wouldn’t. The ball floated over my head and into the arms of the receiver and they had a big 40 yard gain.

After that “sin”, I was pulled out of the game, and placed on the “bench”. Did I mention how any player worth his salt would hate being shelved to the bench?

I was miserable. I had “sinned”. I knew I had “sinned”. I had let my team down, and I wasn’t playing in the game, and all of that really hurt. How could I have been so proud and disobedient? The costs of disobedience was weighing on me and weighing on me hard. I had been “benched”; put on the shelf; put away: It was a “bummer”.

Do you see any similarities between the game of football and the game of life? If you stop and think about it for just a minute you might see some of the players on God’s team on the bench for the same reasons they were on the bench on my team.

As a member of God’s team are you playing in the game, or are you on the bench?

If you’re Bobby Backup, just keep preparing yourself for playing in the game. Hone your talents and gifts and be ready when the “Coach” calls. I know you will because your “heart” is right. And I happen to know right now He is using everybody who’s prepared. Listen for that call and get out there.

If you’re David Detached, for you to get in the game your priorities are going to have to change. That won’t happen without a change of heart. Remember your first love, when you became a Christian and you followed Jesus out of your love for Him. Before you know it you’ll find yourself enjoying team “meetings” (worship) again and you’ll get something out of those meetings that you can use for the good of the team. Get engaged.

If you’re Rowdy Ralph, for you to get back in the game, you’ll have to do what David did after he broke at least two commandments of God, when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then had Uriah killed to try to cover it up. He was broken hearted. That led him to confess his sin and he repented. He experienced a godly sorrow that led to repentance. (Psalm 51) He changed in character and renewed his commitment to the Lord and the Lord’s team and demonstrated it was genuine by the way he lived. God forgave him. And David went on to reveal he was indeed a “man after God’s own heart”. He ended up being inserted back into the game.

I got up from the bench that night and went over to the Coach. I told him I was sorry and I was wrong and I wouldn’t do it again. You can send me back in to the game and I’ll play it like you want me to play it. I was sorry. I want to play, but I’ll do whatever you say.

A few plays later he called my name. He pulled me up by the face mask, and said, “You better never let that happen again”...and then cracked a slight grin to let me know all was forgiven and I was good to go. You know, it was great being back in the game, and you know what - I got an interception that night. It was like the quarterback was throwing the ball to me, instead of his teammate, all because I did it the Coach’s way. Funny how that works!

Why not get off the bench and get in the’ll really be glad you did. Why? Because our team wins in the end...and you’ll be glad you’ve made a contribution on the winning team.

No one should like to sit on the “bench”!


Posted by Ralph Sawyer with
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"Christianity is not a religion; it's not a system; it's not an ethical idea; it's not a psychological phenomenon. It's a person."

-Sean Mcdowell, More Than A Carpenter

I read that book for the second time on the flight to Panama, whether it was the first or second plane I don't remember. Headphones in my ears shut the world out, leaving only myself to distract me from the mission.

I'm not much of a blogger, but in these next few paragraphs I'm going to try to show you what a mission trip is like, the reasons to go on one, and how to prepare yourself for one. For starters, preparing for a mission is more than just buying travel sized bottles and snacks. I will admit, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of flying, seeing new places, and being tourists for a day, but that's not what it's about. I've found on my past trips(Panama January 2016, Mexico July 2016) that the days, weeks, or even months leading up to your mission are difficult. I struggle with the devil and his distractions before I even step foot on a plane. It's an investment of time and focus, every day to be in the Word and communicating with God.

On this trip that's what I focused on beforehand. I now can say I am no longer motivated by an image of satisfaction through well-intended experiences, but by an overwhelming desire to serve and please my all-knowing Father and Creator. No longer am I controlled by a want for something I can't attain but through Jesus Christ.

I felt the calling early on, Christ inside of me was just prodding me to go. So when we finally landed in Panama, it was an unexplainable familiarity, like I belonged there in that moment. Typical greetings and introductions came once we got through customs, and I met our translator Karissa and our driver, Ramfis. We all hit it off immediately, and I knew Karissa and I would have an amazing time rooming together. By the time we reached the hotel, it was 9:30PM and we were all exhausted.

The next morning we went to the church service, seeing all of the people again was so joyous. Karissa translated the entire sermon, and we went out to lunch and the beach after, which was nice considering the heat. Janice witnessed to a Catholic couple on the beach, she was ready to go from the start. The day was full of introductions and scoping out the week. We had a VBS meeting in the church before heading to dinner. By the end of the day we were all wiped out, and prepared for VBS the next day.

The kids were eager to learn and try to speak English, the second we met them our hearts melted. We taught them values like respect, honesty, and love. It was hard, hot work, keeping up with them. After their lesson, and we played Futbol outside, the heat sucked the energy out of my body like a vacuum. My little amigo, Octavio, decided I was his permanent playmate whenever he so desired, leaving me panting and sweaty but it was beyond worth it. The third day two teenage girls got saved, a joyous victory.

I remember one day hearing Karissa say, "those six hours fell on me like fire," referring to her usual seven. I laughed at her but I was feeling it too. We sang and danced with the kids to songs we could hardly sing, attempting Spanish(and failing a lot if you're me). By the time the end of VBS came along we all had made many new friends. Octavio exclaimed angrily that I would be back Friday, to play Futbol again.

After VBS we drove back to Panama City, checking into a new hotel and planning our day of tourism. We visited the canal, watching ships pass through. My favorite part of the canal is the wind, when its 80-90 degrees the breeze is amazing. We went to an outdoor market, shopping for gifts and souvenirs . I wasn't ready for it to end.

To finish out our last day all the ladies and I went out on a long walk, sharing testimonies and stories. I could tell we were all a little closer than when the week began. The van ride to the airport in the morning was silent. I was reflecting on the week, praying for the two teenage girls who became saved and who they will impact. It was sad we were leaving.

If you're feeling led to go and serve internationally, Glen Locklear has mission classes that you must take in order to go. If you check the bulletin on Sunday it'll have the information you need to take the class. Don't let worldly distractions get in the way if you're feeling led. Mathew 28:19-20 is a great motivation for anyone who is feeling God push them towards missions.

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Always remember, your life is a mission and the entire world needs to see God's love through us.


Posted by Grace Woodliff with

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