Monday, August 20, 2018

THE BIGGEST WIN - Joshua Cooley - One Free Book

Welcome, Joshua. What would you like for our readers to know about you personally?
I grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, and I’ve been living in Durham, North Carolina, for the last three years. I graduated from Liberty University with a journalism degree, and I’ve been a sportswriter for more than twenty years. Since 2007, I have been in fulltime vocational ministry, and I’m currently the children’s minister at Chapel Hill Bible Church. I once owned a Mustang GT. Now I own a gold minivan. I also once had hair. Honest.

Tell us about your family.
God has blessed me with an amazing family. I have a beautiful wife, Kelly, and four wonderful daughters ages 6-12. Kelly is my best friend. I met her on her very first day at The Gazette, a former newspaper in Maryland, where I was the assistant sports editor. On the day we met, she was looking for plastic utensils in the staff lunch room, she asked me for help, and, well, the rest is history. We’re about to celebrate our 15th anniversary.

Congratulations. Have you written other nonfiction books?
Yes, The Biggest Win is the 10th book that I’ve either written, co-authored, or contributed to in some way. All my published books have been non-fiction. Earlier this year, I had the privilege to co-author Believe It, The New York Times bestselling memoir of Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles. Here are some of my other books:

The One Year Devotions with Jesus
Heroes of the Bible Devotional
The One Year Sports Devotions for Kids
The Hope of Easter
Playing with Purpose: Inside the Lives and Faith of the Major Leagues’ Top Players

I did once dip my toes into the world of fiction with a fascinating, fully illustrated story called The Flying Turtle ... in sixth grade. Alas, like many great masterpieces, it has yet to receive any critical acclaim during the author’s lifetime.

Do you have any other books in the works right now?
Yes, I’m currently working on another youth devotional. I love getting the chance to teach gospel truth to the next generation. As a children’s minister, the theme verse of our church’s children’s ministry is Psalm 78:4: “Tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” This is a verse that often motivates me in my writing career, as well.

What kinds of hobbies and leisure activities do you enjoy?
Many moons ago, I used to collect baseball cards. Now those cards mainly just collect dust (and hopefully a little return on the investment). I love writing, reading, watching sports, watching movies (especially classics), and taking trips with my family.

Why did you write the featured book?
So often, sports (especially competitive sports) can become a very narcissistic pursuit–all about winning, competition, personal statistics, scholarships, rivalries, etc. But sports can accomplish a far greater purpose in our lives. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This includes sports! We should compete athletically and enjoy sports for the glory of God. I wrote The Biggest Win to help all athletes and fans–regardless of age, gender or sport–learn how to do that.

What do you want the reader to take away from the book?
I want every reader to understand that they can use sports to grow in their faith, glorify God, and positively influence others around them.

This book features six players from the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, Jordan Hicks, and Chris Maragos. What led you to feature these specific players? Why didn’t you feature other athletes from other sports?
I first became connected with these players in the spring of 2017 through a story I did on most of them for Bible Study Magazine. The depth of their faith, their love and knowledge of Scripture, and their passionate pursuit of Christian community together really impressed me. Before long, I started thinking about a book that would feature the voices of Christian professional athletes who could speak about topics that any athlete could relate to. That was the origin of The Biggest Win.
Why only football players in this book?
Well, for one, professional athletes typically are not very accessible. Oftentimes, a writer like myself has to go through a team’s media relations department or a player’s agent to do interviews. But I had direct access to all six of these players, which was a huge blessing, because I had already spoken to them for the magazine story. Because of a fairly tight deadline, I chose to focus exclusively on these six athletes rather than spending lots of time pursuing interviews with athletes from other sports. I believe the testimonies and experiences shared by the six players from the 2017 Eagles are representative of what all athletes undergo at some level. That’s because we didn’t discuss much about NFL life, per se, but rather what it means to live as an athlete trying to glorify God, regardless of how much money you make or what level you play at. In that regard, I think they provide a lot of great thoughts and wonderful examples that athletes and fans of any sport can benefit from.

What are some of the topics you discuss in the book?
I tried to discuss all the major topics that any Christian athlete will face when playing sports. In fact, I ran my chapter/topical list by a couple of the Eagles’ players and asked them how it looked and if I was missing anything. They gave it their thumbs-up. Here’s a sampling of some of the chapter topics:
Being motivated by God’s glory, not your own.
Finding your identity in Christ, not your athletic status.
Training in godliness.
How (religious) practice doesn’t make perfect.
Handling winning, losing, and life’s uncertainties.
Using sports to fulfill the Great Commission.
Seeking final victory in Christ.
And much more!

Sounds very interesting. I’m looking forward to receiving my copy. Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers about you or your book?
This book can be used as a Bible study resource or a devotional for sports teams, etc. I purposefully put lots of great Scripture references throughout, and there are questions for reflection at the end of each chapter.

Also, you might only see a football on the cover, read the subtitle “Pro Football Players Tackle Faith,”
see that the foreword is written by six football players from the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles team and think to yourself, “Huh, I wonder if this is only a book for football players or fans.” No, it’s not! Don’t let those football-centric themes fool you! As I’ve mentioned, I had unique access to six NFL teammates who could speak to the themes of what I wanted to discuss the book, so I wanted to capitalize on that.

Another thing I’d like to mention is the timeline of the book. I began writing in September 2017. When I began interviewing them for the book in August, the 2017 season hadn’t even officially started. No one had any idea how good the Eagles were going to be. As it turned out, they won the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy with a season for the ages, thanks in part to a backup quarterback who became Super Bowl MVP. Talk about a big win! But that’s not The Biggest Win. To find out what The Biggest Win is, you’ll have to read the book!

Please give us the first page or two from the book.
Aaron Rodgers’ experience at the 2005 National Football League draft was unforgettable. Before you could say “Curly Lambeau,” the night had already achieved legendary status.

The strong-armed University of California junior was a surefire NFL prospect and possible number-one pick, held that year by the San Francisco 49ers. On draft night, however, the 49ers chose Utah quarterback Alex Smith.

No biggie. Certainly one of the next few teams would snatch up Rodgers. But then, Miami didn’t pick Rodgers at number two; Cleveland, Chicago, and Tampa Bay also passed on him. Four hours later, the Green Bay Packers finally selected the shell-shocked twenty-one-year-old with the twenty-fourth pick.

Of course, to date Rodgers has won a Super Bowl, two MVP awards, and been named to six Pro Bowls. Most teams searching for a future Hall of Famer’s heir apparent (as Green Bay was at the time for Brett Favre) can only dream of stumbling upon someone like Rodgers. Since that fateful night, the national media has hashed and rehashed Rodgers’s epic slide down the draft board. But consider the Packers’ perspective: Through absolutely no effort of their own, they received a stunning, unexpected blessing.

This book was kind of like that for me.

On March 31, 2017, I received an email at 5:37 pm. It was a normal Friday night; our family was probably sitting down to dinner when it arrived. The subject line read: “Looking for a freelance writer.”

Bible Study Magazine, a publication I had never written for before, was outsourcing a November 2017 cover story about a group of Philadelphia Eagles players who were uncommonly devoted to seeking God’s Word together. Intrigued by the idea, I suppressed my natural NFC East allegiance (full disclosure: lifelong Redskins fan here) and took the gig.

The article focused on Trey Burton, Zach Ertz, Nick Foles, Jordan Hicks, Chris Maragos, Jordan Matthews (who was traded to the Buffalo Bills in August 2017 before the article ran), and Carson Wentz. These guys weren’t perfect, nor did they claim to be. But I was immediately struck by their unquenchable hunger for Scripture and their commitment to genuine Christian discipleship, accountability, and obedience to Great Commission living. Rarely, if ever, have I spoken to a group of professional athletes so committed to pursuing biblical truth together.

Maragos, the oldest of the group and a veteran of multiple NFL teams, said he’d never seen anything like it during his career. Best-selling author Randy Alcorn, who mentors some of the players, told me he was “very impressed with the unusual level of biblical and theological interest in this group.”

Soon, I realized there was a much larger story to tell. Since creation, God’s marvelous plan of redemption has been moving toward ultimate fulfillment. And amazingly, he allows athletic competition—enjoyed by billions of humans worldwide—to be one of many catalysts for spiritual growth. This book is a humble effort to examine this fascinating topic.

What about you? Regardless of your athletic skill level, are you ready to live out your faith and glorify God? And if so, how can you achieve this worthy goal?

It’s your job to answer the first question. This book, Lord willing, can help you with the second.

The divinely inspired words of 1 Corinthians 10:31—“whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”—reveal that even something as fleeting as athletic competition falls under the sovereign lordship of our heavenly King. We owe him our heart’s allegiance at home, school, work, church . . . and yes, in sports. That’s what this book is about: pursuing God’s glory as we compete, recognizing the God-given lessons that athletics provides, and becoming more like Christ through the triumphs and challenges that sports presents.

Need more evidence that your faith and athletic life should be integrated? Consider the Bible’s numerous sports metaphors. The apostle Paul wrote about athletic training (1 Corinthians 9:25, 27; 1 Timothy 4:8), receiving a victor’s laurel (1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 2:5, 4:8), boxing (1 Corinthians 9:26, 2 Timothy 4:7), and foot races (1 Corinthians 9:24, 26; Philippians 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:7). Jeremiah 12:5 and Hebrews 12:1 also feature running imagery. The point is this: You most certainly can live out your faith in sports, and you absolutely can glorify God while competing.

As we proceed, our journey will need a personal touch—a human element to understand how all this plays out. That’s where the dedicated Christians on the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles team come in. As athletes who love Jesus passionately and compete at the highest level in front of millions of people, their voices are prominent in this book. Their stories, insights, triumphs, and failures provide helpful perspective along our course.

Their amazing 2017 season—culminating in a 41–33 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, providing the eighty-five-year-old franchise with its first-ever Super Bowl title—was a wonderful blessing from the Lord. This historic championship afforded them a much bigger platform, to do what every great Christian athlete does: deflect glory toward their Creator.

We will draw upon the experiential wisdom of these elite players, but we won’t idolize them. They are remarkable athletes with outsized salaries and fame that most of us will never know. But they are no better or worse than anyone else—a fact they happily admit. They are some of the most humble, likable professional athletes I’ve ever encountered (even if they are Redskins rivals). They are sinners saved by grace, just like all believers.

So avoid the “us vs. them” mentality. These players are no different in the heart issues that God cares about. As 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God isn’t impressed by financial statements, Twitter followers, or jersey sales. He desires our hearts. He expects our worship. He demands our allegiance.

Our goal has eternity in mind: exploring how all believers—male or female, young or old—can grow in their faith by using sports to glorify the Lord. This is my prayer for you. While six NFL athletes are central characters, I hope you’ll see that the book’s true Protagonist is “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2), in order that “your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5).

As God’s image-bearers, we are to reflect his glory in all our endeavors. To do this well, we must constantly look to the Spirit-inspired Word of God. The loftiest human paradigms cannot replace the timeless truths found in the Bible. As Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

The Lord God Almighty has created all things for his glory, including you and your athletic talents. He is using hungry, committed Christians in the NFL to accomplish his purposes through sports. By his grace, he can use you, too.

The preseason has ended. It’s game time. Are you ready to glorify God?

Awesome!! Where on the Internet can the readers find you?
Twitter: @JoshuaCooley9

Thank you, Josh, for sharing this book with me and my blog readers. I’m sure they’re as eager to read it as I am.

Readers, here are links to the book.
The Biggest Win: Pro Football Players Tackle Faith - Paperback
The Biggest Win: Pro Football Players Tackle Faith - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. You must follow these instructions to be in the drawing. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory or country if outside North America. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

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Kathy A said...

Thank you, Josh for sharing about your book. This book sounds like the perfect devotional for the football fans in my life. Thank you for the opportunity to win your book.

Neosho, MO

Vera Godley said...

I worked at Cresset Christian Academy in Durham for 25 years. It isn't far from your church. Also, Becky Falwell attended Cresset and was a close friend and classmate of my son. What a coincidence to see you here on Lena's blog. Your book sounds great and should be such a treasure for school libraries and budding athletes who are Christian.

Best wishes for much success to you.

Vera in central North Carolina

JC said...

Thanks, Kathy and Vera, for your kind words and encouragement. Yes, Kathy, I think the book would make a great devotional for football fans (or any sports fans) that you know! Vera, yep, I work close to Cresset. Small world!

Library Lady said...

The men readers in our Church Library are going to love this book and so will my husband.
Thanks for entering me in your giveaway.
Janet E.

JC said...

Thanks for reading, Library Lady!
- Josh

Connie Porter Saunders said...

I am always glad to see devotionals that target a certain age group or a certain tooic of interest. People who generally ignore them will be drawn to one that features football players.
Connie from Kentucky

Sharon Bryant said...

Enter me!!
Conway SC.