Duchene stands firm in his faith

NHL star Matt Duchene stands firm in who he is and what he believes.

The Nashville Predators centerman is unashamedly rooted in his faith as a follower of Jesus Christ. Duchene was raised in a Christian home where his relationship with God was a priority. And from that, his spiritual journey with the Lord has helped shape and mold him throughout his life.

“I was just brought up with it,” Duchene said. “My grandparents on both sides are Christians and my parents just brought me up with that way of life and belief. We went to church a lot when I was a kid. It’s tough to keep it going during the season, but I’m going to try and get out and find somewhere I like to go this year now that we’re somewhere permanently for a while. I’m excited to bring my son up with that.

“I grew up going to an Anglican church. I really enjoyed that. I’m kind of a non-denominational type guy now. I think everyone can have their own relationship with God. It’s something that’s a huge thing in my life.”

As Duchene moves into a new season of life in Nashville with his wife Ashley and infant son Beau, he looks forward to raising his family in the same Christian environment that impacted him so heavily as a child.

He and Ashley are committed to providing Beau with a loving example of what a relationship with the Lord is supposed to look like.

“My wife is a Christian as well and was brought up that way, so it’s nice,” Duchene said. “It’s not like I have it and she doesn’t have it. It’s going to be something that [Beau] is brought up with in a very loving way. For me, that’s what I love. It’s a loving relationship with God, and that’s the kind of relationship I think my son will grow up with. I’m really excited to teach him about it because it’s the biggest thing in my life.”

There’s a lot that goes into being a professional athlete, particularly an athlete as high-profile as Duchene is. There’s obviously the countless hours of work that are put in behind the scenes to make sure the on-ice performance continues to improve, but there’s also a certain responsibility that comes with constantly being in the limelight.

Duchene isn’t fazed by publicly putting his faith in Jesus on display. He’s comfortable talking about it with those who approach him. By no means does he want to shove his religious beliefs in the faces of other people, but he also isn’t worried about what outside judgments he may face about being so open about his faith.

“I don’t find it challenging at all,” Duchene said. “I definitely don’t preach to anybody about it who isn’t willing to talk about it, but it is fun to have open conversations with guys who are believers. I think everyone has got different levels of their faith, or none at all. For me, just being a Christian, it’s accepting that. I don’t really care if anyone judges me or not judges me on it. I do what I do and I believe what I believe. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t worry about judgment from other people if there is any, good or bad. It’s my own thing. I think faith is a personal thing, and I kind of keep it that way.”

Like all of us, Duchene often needs guidance from the Lord. As the summer of 2019 was approaching, and with it a free agency decision from Duchene on where he would spend perhaps the remainder of his NHL career, he turned to the Lord to help guide him in making his decision.

And what he found was that the Lord paved the way for him. All he had to do was follow.

Duchene signed in Nashville, a place that had become near and dear to him and his family. He had other options in free agency but ultimately felt Nashville was the right place for them to be.

“I prayed all last year, ‘Lord just open a door for me and I’ll walk through it. That’s all I’m asking. Just make it blatantly obvious what the right decision is to be in,” Duchene said. “The whole way along, there were like flashing signs of what I was supposed to do. I just gave it to Him, and He showed me the way. At the same time you have your own thoughts and everything and sometimes you overthink, but it was honestly taken out of my hands right there in front of me. The doors opened and I walked through them.

“It was as simple as that. I got exactly what I asked for. It was one of those things that reaffirms your faith in a way. Obviously we all have that deep belief, but when you have those moments of ‘Wow, like He’s there and He’s looking out for me’, that was huge last year for me from start to finish.”

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Light in the darkness

One of the big failures of the Christian faith today is that oftentimes we fail to do what the Lord has commanded us to do.

We can get so caught up in being judgmental against our fellow man or woman, or maybe even more common, don’t put enough time or investment into reading the word of God and hearing from Him that we don’t know what Jesus has commanded us to do.

Adopting the loving attitude that Jesus has commanded us to have can be so difficult to put into practice, particularly in today’s world and the echo chamber that is social media.

I think back to Jesus and what he said to his disciples shortly before he was about to be betrayed by Judas and crucified. He had just gotten done washing the feet of his disciples (a task that was reserved for the lowliest servant) and was explaining to them that his time left with them on earth was short.

In John 13:33-35, Jesus says:

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus loves people with a selfless kind of love that is full of compassion and totally genuine. Look no further than his sacrifice on the cross for sins he did not commit to illustrate that point.

Today’s world is filled with so much hatred. Every time you turn on the television or log on to Twitter, it seems like something horrible has happened. It seems like evil is everywhere you turn.

That’s why it’s so important for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus to show his light to the world. There are people who do this every day, people that I have met, and it can make such a difference in a dark world that needs all of the love it can get.

Jesus lays it out in a simple, yet daunting way in John 13. It’s simple to understand that Jesus wants us to love one another at all times. It’s much more daunting to put that into practice on a daily basis.

I would like to challenge all of us this week to really put those words from Jesus into practice. Dive deep into a selfless, genuine love for other people. Reach out. Help those who need it and don’t expect anything in return. Serve willingly and joyfully.

When we as Christians start to love the world the way Jesus instructed us to, we will see radical change in our lives and the lives of those around us in ways that we could have never imagined.

Instead of being judgmental or spiteful, ask yourself: “How would Jesus handle this situation?” When we start seeing the world through that lens, it will completely transform how we connect with people.

What’s holding you back?

What’s stopping you from sharing the good news of the gospel?

Is it fear? Feeling like you’re not knowledgeable enough to share it with any confidence? Do you just not know how to begin that conversation with someone?

All of us Christians have probably been there at some point in our walk with the Lord when we feel like we don’t know what to say or do when presented with the opportunity to share the story of Jesus.

However, I believe the formula for overcoming that and sharing the good news is available to us. We have to get into the word of God, trust in Him, communicate with Him and listen to how He responds.

When we read the Bible and dive into the word of the Lord with an intentional, genuine desire to draw closer to Him, we will not be disappointed. And because of that, we will become more knowledgeable and more confident in sharing our faith with others.

The Holy Spirit has a way at tugging at our heartstrings and giving us the right words to say when we trust in the Lord.

Jesus gave us a command prior to his ascension into heaven that is referred to as The Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20, where that takes place, reads:

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of 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.”

Jesus wants us to not only share our faith and lead others to Him, but He also wants us to make disciples. There’s a difference between being a believer and being a disciple. Coming to a saving faith in Jesus isn’t the finish line; it’s the starting line.

What steps are you taking to ensure that you are going and making disciples of all nations? When was the last time you shared your testimony of what Jesus has done in your life?

Take this as a challenge this week to dig into the word of God and draw nearer to him. And to any obstacle that’s preventing you from sharing your faith in Jesus, pray that He would remove that obstacle from your life and allow you to speak about him boldly and bravely.

Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins. He lived a perfect life that we couldn’t live and died a death we should have died. And on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead and conquered hell and the grave. If you’ll invite Jesus into your heart, confess that you’re a sinner and believe that Jesus is Lord and died for your sins and rose from the dead, you will be saved and will spend eternity with Him in heaven.

If you’ve never prayed that prayer or made that decision in your life, I pray that you’d be bold enough to do that today. Feel free to reach out to me to chat at robstanley10@gmail.com.

For those of you who are believers, allow God to remove those barriers from your life this week and learn to trust in Him and be confident to share your faith.

Adopting a servant’s heart

Perhaps now more than ever in the 21st century world that we live in, our society focuses on a transactional way of doing things. I give you this, you give me that. I pay you this, I receive that.

If we’re not careful, that can affect the way we live our lives as Christians as well. I think a big problem in today’s church is we view God, and the church, very much from the same transactional standpoint.

How many of us show up to church thinking “What can I get out of this?” Or maybe even more prominently, how many of us approach our prayer life with God as “What can God do for me?” Our prayers often turn into laundry lists of our wishes and desires, treating God like he’s the magic genie from Aladdin without really pausing to recognize who we’re talking to and the respect that should come with that.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing your requests to God or trying to see what you can get out of a church service that could be applied to your life. However, there is a problem when we approach our Christian lives looking to be served rather than looking to serve. Too often we approach our church lives and prayer lives as “consumers” rather than “active participants.”

A good example of what I’m talking about can be found in the gospel of Mark. Jesus had performed many miracles, had taken James, John and Peter to the mountain to witness the transfiguration and had spoken of his coming death and resurrection.

With all of the signs that had been performed, James and John recognized that Jesus was obviously special and that he was going to be glorified in some way, possibly even as a political ruler, and they wanted to take advantage of that. They approached Jesus in Mark 10:35 and went on to ask Jesus to let one of them sit on his right and the other at his left in his glory, in whatever form that would be.

Essentially, James and John wanted to elevate their status and take hold of a special place with Jesus. After dealing with those requests from James and John, Jesus calls the disciples to gather around in Mark 10:42-45:

Jesus called them together and said “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus refers to the traditional human viewpoint of rule and points out how he expects the complete opposite from them. He points out that even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

If we’re not careful, many of us can often be like James and John, who were looking for Jesus to elevate them and were concerned about their own clout rather than doing what the Lord has called them to do.

A practical application of this text from my viewpoint is to remember that Jesus teaches us to have a servant’s heart and to make sure that you put others before yourself. Try to adopt this lifestyle in your own life and see what a difference it can make in your walk with the Lord.

Just checking in

When is the last time you reached out to an old friend or acquaintance you haven’t talked to in a while and checked to see how they were doing?

It can be something that is hugely beneficial to not only the person you’re checking in on, but also to you!

I had a friend check in on me yesterday and it was just so good to hear from him and catch up on life. I believe God wants us to have relationships with people where we can help them in their walk through the daily grind of life.

Sometimes people just need to be encouraged. And sometimes by encouraging others, we find encouragement and strength out of that ourselves.

Hebrews 10:24-24 says:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Reach out and reconnect with people today!

Who is Jesus?

Have you ever heard people talking about Jesus and wondered to yourself “Who is he? What’s the big deal?”

That’s ok. You’re not alone in that by any stretch of the imagination. When you hear people talking about the “gospel”, here’s the basic gist of what that means:

In the beginning, God created everything in the universe, including the earth and all that inhabits the earth. Adam and Eve were the first humans created by God and ultimately disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is significant because it introduced sin into the world.

Because of that, everyone after that had to deal with sin. In order to live a perfect life and avoid the punishment of sin, which is death and exile from God, one would have to live a flawless life in accordance with God’s Law. However, no human ever could or will be able to do that.

That’s a pretty big problem, huh?

That’s where Jesus enters into the equation. He came to earth and was born in Bethlehem to a virgin named Mary. The Holy Spirit moved in her and Jesus was born. That’s what is celebrated at Christmas time.

Jesus came and lived a perfect life. He performed many miracles, including raising people from the dead, healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind and walking on water. He was the epitome of righteousness. He is the Son of God and he ultimately was betrayed by one of his disciples named Judas Iscariot to the Sanhedrin and was given to the Romans to be crucified on a cross.

He had done nothing wrong but willingly sacrificed himself after living a perfect life. Because of that, he took the place on the cross for you and I and died for our sins. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. He lived a life you and I could never live and because of his sacrifice, he provided a way for us to have a real relationship with God through him.

And because he is Lord, he rose from the dead three days later and came back to life. Shortly after that, Jesus ascended into heaven and he will come back to earth one day!

If you put your faith in Jesus and admit to and repent from your sins and confess them and your need for Christ, believe that he died for your sins and was raised from the dead and is Lord of all, you will be saved.

That means you will be a child of God and will be able to serve his will while you’re on earth and take the gospel to all nations. You will not be separated from God when your life is over in a place called Hell. You will spend eternity with him in heaven! It doesn’t get any better than that.

So hopefully this has helped some of you discover who Jesus is and why Christians believe what they believe. The most popular verse in the Bible, John 3:16, reads:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

What does it mean to have true faith?

What does it mean to have true faith and trust in God?

This question came to mind for me when I was reading in the Gospel of Mark. Let’s start with a little background information for context in Mark 11 and we’ll pick up with Jesus’ comments on having true belief:

As Jesus was leaving the town of Bethany to head back into the city of Jerusalem, which was nearby, he was hungry. He saw a fig tree in leaf off in the distance and went to find out if it had any fruit.

When Jesus got there, he found nothing but leaves because it was not in season for figs. He said to the tree, within earshot of the disciples, in Mark 11:14: “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

The very next morning, after Jesus had overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves in the previous day, he and his disciples were walking along and saw that same fig tree withered from the roots.

Peter said to Jesus: “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

That’s where we will pick up in Mark 11:22-25 with Jesus’ response:

“Have faith in God.” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.”

That’s a powerful illustration of what true faith in Jesus can do in your life. Jesus said that if you truly believe that you have received what you’ve asked for in prayer, and do not have doubt in your heart, that it will be yours.

When you really study and analyze that, it should completely change the way that we view prayer. I think most of us view prayer, particularly when we are asking something of God, as something we HOPE that He will do rather than BELIEVING that he will do something.

There’s a major difference in those two thoughts. How many of you have prayed for something and hoped that God would respond? What kind of a difference would it make in our lives if we had the kind of faith to truly believe that God will supply us with what we need and what we ask for?

As followers of Jesus Christ, faith is really the name of the game for us. When you made a decision to follow Jesus, you put your faith in him and believed that he was the son of the living God who lived a perfect life, died for the sins of all, rose from the dead and will return one day.

From the world’s perspective, that probably doesn’t make a ton of sense. But from our perspective, it’s about faith and trusting in the Lord and believing that he is who he says he is.

Sometimes I think we all, myself included, unintentionally put limits on what we think God can do in our lives because our human brains simply can’t wrap our minds around how great his power truly is. But if we truly believe the same God who created the entire universe and everything in it and has performed countless miracles is who he says he is, shouldn’t it stand to reason that we can fully have faith to trust in him and watch him work in our lives?

I think we should all strive to get to the point in our prayer lives where we present our concerns and requests before God and truly believe that he’s going to take care of us and direct our lives to what we truly need.

Putting all of your faith in God means putting all of your trust in him also. The more we can adopt that all-in mindset to God and what he commands us to do, the more fruit we’ll see in our lives.

Love is always the way

Bullying is something that has gone on for ages, but it just seems like it’s more prevalent nowadays.

That may or may not be true, but I do know that social media has certainly made it more visible to the general public. Social media itself can sometimes be a cesspool where bullying is at the most extreme.

It breaks my heart to see some of these videos that are floating around out there of kids, or even adults, being bullied and harassed.

My first thought is always “How could somebody do this to someone?” And not only how can they do it, but how can they do it AND record it while it’s happening?

Here recently, though, I’ve been having a follow-up thought as well:

“Surely I didn’t participate in this kind of behavior when I was growing up……right?”

The fact is that I don’t specifically remember a time where I bullied someone mercilessly and intentionally, but I’m also sure there were times where I was bullying someone, maybe without even knowing what I was doing. Maybe sometimes when I even did know what I was doing.

Lately, when I hear of these instances or see these videos, I just can’t help but try to think about what that must feel like….To wake up and just dread going somewhere or being around a specific group of people because you’re either afraid of what they might do or say to you or that you’re unable to do anything about it. To feel like you’re all alone.

Like I said before, it’s just heartbreaking.

Admittedly, bullying has never really been something I’ve had to deal with or work through. It happened from time to time growing up through school, but for me they were isolated incidents and I usually dealt with them there in the moment. As old as this may make me seem, it was a different time.

I’m not naive enough to think that’s how it is for everyone. Bullying exists and it’s a problem. And it’s not just a problem that kids deal with either. There are adults around us all, maybe even some of you who are reading this, that have to deal with a form of bullying every day.

It’s one thing to recognize what bullying is and that it’s an issue. But what can we do about it?

I’d like to address three groups of people in order to try and answer that question.

If you are the one being a bully or are a part of a group being a bully……why? That’s probably the first thing you need to ask yourself. Why am I doing this? What purpose does it serve? Is it really worth making another human being feel this way?

Particularly if you claim to be a follower of Jesus and you are bullying someone, which does happen……why? In 1 John 2:9 it says: “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.”

Jesus was all about love and kindness. If you profess to be a follower of him, it would stand to reason that you should strive to be the same way.

Secondly, if you witness somebody being bullied, lend a helping hand. That doesn’t necessarily mean go flying in there and physically fight off the bully, but it does mean that you can do what you can to stop them.

More importantly, it means making sure that the victim knows that they aren’t alone. That there are people out there who do care about them and who do value them. Sometimes standing up to a bully on behalf of someone else or befriending someone who is “uncool” isn’t the popular thing to do, but it’s always the right thing to do.

Jesus wasn’t about popularity. He did what was right. He healed the sick, ministered to the lost and hung around tax collectors, included women (which was abnormal at the time), gave his time to the poor and unclean. The least we can do is to be a friend, which is easy. And it could end up being one of the most rewarding things you ever do.

Finally, I want to speak to those who are being bullied. The simplest comfort I can give is that no matter how much it may seem like it, you are not alone.

There are people who care. There are people who you can reach out to. But most importantly, there is a Heavenly Father who knows you, loves you and created you.

There’s a passage in the New Testament that we call “The Great Commission” where Jesus said his final words before ascending into heaven after his resurrection.

It can be found in Matthew 28:18-20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of 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.”

Those final words are just so encouraging to me. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus is always with you and will not leave you.

Bottom line…..respect those around you and treat them according to that respect. It’s easy to be a follower and give in to peer pressure and be a bully. Sometimes it’s hard to be a leader and stand up for and stand with somebody else.

Do the hard thing.

Quick hits: Enter into the peace of God

Just some food for thought heading into this weekend….maybe you’ve got some stressful issues going on in your life right now and you need some encouragement.

Take a look at this passage written by Paul from Philippians 4:4-9:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Jesus is counter-cultural….and we should be too

Our world today teaches us to be spiteful, negative and many times just downright hateful. That’s why being a follower of Christ is so counter-cultural.

Jesus teaches us to be loving and accepting of all people. That can oftentimes be the hardest thing to do, particularly when those people are not being kind to us in return.

I’ve been going through the gospel of Luke lately, and it’s always interesting to me how different passages that you’ve read before seem to connect with you in ways they previously never had when you read them again.

One passage of particular interest to me of late has been Luke 6:27-38 where Jesus is speaking to a large crowd who had come to hear him speak and to be healed. During that teaching, Jesus spelled out to us how to love our enemies and how that makes us more like God.

“But I say to you who listen: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks from you, and from one who takes away your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Pretty much everything about what Jesus said in this passage goes against what our everyday norm in today’s world has turned into.

How often do you see cordial conversation, much less compassion, being shown between two people who disagree with each other politically? Have you read a comment section of pretty much any news article on Facebook lately? It’s a horrifying place to be. Imagine how difficult it would be to show love toward someone who is bullying you or mistreating you on a daily basis?

Yet, that is one of the many things that makes Jesus so incredible. Following him and putting his ways into practice is rarely the easy thing to do. But it’s always the right thing to do.

It’s not difficult to love the people who love you. As Jesus said, anybody can do that. But it is difficult to show love and compassion for people who treat you poorly.

At the end of the day, if you have accepted Jesus as your savior and walk with the Holy Spirit, we all have the ability to learn from what Jesus has taught us in this passage and watch how it will transform our lives.

Do not judge. Do not condemn. Just love. That’s what we’re taught to do, and that’s how we can change the world around us on a daily basis.