September 2017  
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Braden Looper - Baseball: Florida Marlins / New York Mets / St. Louis Cardinals

Braden was a four-sport athlete in his Oklahoma high school, lettering in baseball, basketball, football and golf. He played college baseball for Wichita State where he earned All-American honors. In 1996 he helped lead WSU to the College World Series as their most powerful closer with 12 saves and 2.02 ERA. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998. Braden was traded to the Florida Marlins in 1999 where he lead NL rookie pitchers with 72 appearances.

"Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'" Luke 23:42-43.

While I was never a criminal in the eyes of the law of man like the thief on the cross, I did violate the law of God. We are all born with sin and I, like most people, ignored the fact that my sin kept me from a right relationship with God. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23).

Although I went to church on a regular basis growing up, it wasn't until spring training in 1998, my second year in pro baseball, that I came to understand that because of sin I needed a savior and couldn't count on being a good person to save myself. I needed to understand and accept that Jesus died on the cross for me. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Making that decision lifted a weight from me that I carried the first 22 years of my life. I now have a peace, knowing that I belong to God and will spend eternity with Him all because of what Jesus did on the cross.

Since that day in spring training I've met many people who share the joy that only Christ can bring to your heart. These friendships are valuable because of the common bond we have in Christ. No matter what you think about your past or the things you've done, God forgives everything you have ever done and will ever do. Jesus paid it all on the cross. He forgave the thief Luke wrote about nearly 2,000 years ago. He forgave me. And He has forgiven you and is waiting for you to recognize Him as your Savior, too.