Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Sharpened Conscience

“The fundamental matter at stake, for Reformation Theology, is that consciences are sharpened by the Law and comforted by the Gospel.” – Oswald Bayer

A guilty conscience is when a past or present sin/error/mistake has taken hold of your mind in a way that shackles your inner being.  Without hearing and experiencing Grace, even Christians can get bogged down in this mindset.  It is a slave mindset where you spend your life trying to justify yourself with self-salvation projects.  You try to make up for the mistakes in your life, or the issues you struggle with, by finding comfort in things other than Christ. 

Our Theology is so important.  The first part of my life as a Christian was spent listening to whatever a “higher authority” on the Bible told me.  There was no theological review on my part or enough personal bible studying.  I had the idea that I wouldn’t understand it, not realizing the power of the Spirit of the Lord within me to help in this grasping of Scripture. 

I recently received the quote up top via a Twitter post.  It made a lot of sense to me and explains my growth as a Christian personally and towards others.  The thought that the Law sharpens our conscience is terrific.  The Law is there to show our sin.  Once we are broken by that, the Holy Spirit leads us to the Gospel to lift us up and carry us the rest of our days.  The Law shouldn’t bring guilty conscience or shame; it should continually remind you of what Jesus accomplished in your place.  Therefore, the Law brings a sharpening and understanding of whom Jesus is and His perfection for us.  It makes us aware of our need for a Savior while sharpening the distinction between Law and Gospel.  The day you get the Law and you get a better picture of human depravity is the day the Gospel takes a hold to show you a better picture of God’s Holiness and His radical grace in unconditional love.  There is no more comfort than to know that the only One True God sent Himself to be human and perfectly live according to His Law in your place.  Out of this mercy, comes great transforming power by the Spirit.

This sharpening allows us to love our neighbors without judgment.  Also, grace liberates us to be forgiving and understanding towards others.  It all comes from a better awareness of our own sin, through the law, accompanied by a deeper understanding of the distinctions of the gospel from it. 

So to reiterate some points, reformed theology provides a better picture of the Holiness of God, the depravity of man, and a distinction between Law and Gospel.  All of this is essential to the freedom Jesus came to deliver.  Putting this growth into real life situations shows itself in community and love where God has you. 
That is my Pitch for today! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's NOT Cheap Grace.

I found another great baseball related gospel post today.  This one is from Nick Lannon a regular contributor on a couple of other blogs I read.  This event from the Little League World Series definitely causes a heart issue one way or the other.  Give them "grace" or play by the "law".  I think that Nick hits the nail on the head with his commentary on the situation, as it pertains to grace we see from God.  Here it is:

A team from Petaluma, CA defeated a team from Nanakuli, Hawaii by appealing a play at third. In short, a Hawaiian runner missed third on his way to score the tying run in the final inning, and was called out after the play, ending the game.  Here's the story.  Note that the author says that the California squad reached the World Series "in the most controversial of circumstances." This would be incredible hyperbole under normal circumstances (there was no doping, game-throwing, or puberty-reaching, all of which would have been more controversial), but here, it's even more out of place: Petaluma won the game according to the rules!  Touching all of the bases is pretty fundamental to baseball, and appeal plays exist for just this sort of circumstance.
The "controversy" in this story is largely due to the heartbreaking nature of Nanakuli's loss. They got the hits required to win the game, but lost on a "technicality." Shouldn't the Petaluma coach have forgone the appeal and let the Hawaiians win? Wouldn't that have been the gracious thing to do?

One of the great misconceptions about Christianity is that grace involves setting aside, circumventing, or ignoring the rules (the law).  Upon hearing this Little League story, a part of my heart thought, "Wouldn't it have been a wonderful example of grace if Petaluma, though knowing about the infraction, conceded the game to Nanakuli anyway?" wouldn't have been.  Grace doesn't mean playing the game as though there aren't any rules. Though grace does imply "unmerited favor," it carries with it the assumption of substitution, the game-changing fact that someone else has followed the rules in our stead.
Life without the law makes as little sense as a baseball game in which base-touching is optional. The law is never optional, and grace and the Gospel cannot forget about the law.  In fact, it is the law that makes us aware of our need for the Gospel (Rom 7:7)!  Our lives, and our faith, make sense when we understand that the rules haven't been done away with, they have instead been fulfilled for us (Matthew 5:18). God, we are told, will not be mocked (Gal 6:7)...his law is holy, righteous and good, and must be upheld. All the bases must be touched for the run to count.  Thank God, though, that all the bases laid out before us have been touched by the one, Christ Jesus, who is holy, righteous and good, when we cannot be.

If I am coaching or playing on that field, there is no way I give the cheap grace to allow that run to score.  I would allow for an instant replay, but I don't think they have that available. :) The law is necessary to bring us to despair and the truth of God's grace is there to deliver us.
That is my pitch for the day!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Strive for Perfection

Mock...Ing...Bird.  If you haven't visited the website then do it.  There are so many articles that are fascinating reads.  There are many contributors for the articles written, with most of them sticking to their topic of interest.  One of the regulars who write about the gospel and sports is Ethan Richardson, a recent graduate of UVA (Religious Studies and English) and former teacher in the inner city part of New Orleans.  He wrote a post on mockingbird titled The Dishonest Simplicity of Perfection.  He included a passage from a book about a former college baseball player's slippery slope (which I will include in this post at the end). 
All athletes struggle with failure in their selected sport but none experience it regularly like a baseball player does.  We have all heard the challenge of being a successful hitter in the game.  If you get a hit THREE OUT OF EVERY TEN at bats, then you are dang good.  That means you are failing to get a hit SEVEN of those at bats.  It's true that some of your outs could be the result of an unselfish plate appearance.  In these a hitter will maybe successfully make contact on a "Hit and Run" play.  Another example would be with a runner on second, the batters job as a team player would be to get a pitch he can hit "behind" the runner so that his teammate can advance to third base.  A simple ground ball to second, for an out, would suffice.  Either way, those are outs and usually not hard hit balls you typically WANT to hit in one of your few plate appearances for the night. 
This reach of the pursuit of perfection doesn't miss pitchers, catchers, or fielders either.  A pitcher can wind himself so tight trying NOT to miss his spot that it results in too good of a pitch that gets hammered into the gap or over the wall.  Catchers always want to call a good game, meaning they want to be on the same page as the pitcher to keep him in as good as a groove as he can.  When he messes this up, it messes with his head.  Defensively, infielders and outfielders alike, hate "booting" balls.  These errors not only are mistakes then and there but many times it lasts the whole game and affects their approach at the plate the rest of the game. 
With all of this said, I think we can agree that baseball is the hunt for perfection at any position or responsibility.  It can be ingrained in you as you work as a youngster and grow as a ballplayer.  I think it is a competitors natural instinct to STRIVE for perfection because we know we do not and cannot fulfill it.  There is a need in each of us in some way to "get better or try harder".  By no means am I suggesting this is a call for players to quit practicing so much or start taking it less seriously.  It is the opposite and it is in the approach and REACTION to failures.  As coaches we should set our players up in a way that allows them to quickly learn from a mistake but take pride in how they approach their next attempt.  A good coach doesn't "dog" a player for a physical error, he works on what caused the problem and reminds the player that he will get another chance to be successfulThis lifts the burden of performance and creates an air of grace and relaxation in a ballplayer.  This type of feeling is where you see players make unreal defensive plays, take the extra base as base runners, and make the perfect pitch in a stressful situation in the game.  Baseball is a game of "feel" and to be relaxed and confident is your best weapon.
If we as Christians and ballplayers approach life/games expecting to live up to that need of perfection we will be crushed by the failure.  We will lose the JOY a sport is designed for and, as Christians, we will lose the joy we are designed to have in Christ.  So what do we do?  I think the key is a growing realization that you will make mistakes.  When they come, as a baseball player, you have to learn from them but have a short memory as I mentioned earlier.  You cannot let it carry over to the next ground ball, the next pitch, or the next at bat.  As Christians, we are blessed that God does not see our errors anymore.  Those are gone:  past, present, and future.  They were taken care of on the cross by Jesus Christ alone.  God didn't need your help for that.  He sent Jesus (the Righteous) to do what we (the unrighteous) couldn't do.  God does not dwell on sin/errors so why do we?  Why does our sense of worth or satisfaction come from our performance, good or bad?  We MUST rest in Christ's righteousness because there is NONE without it. 
Thank God we can REST in HIS perfection for us.  We can find joy not in our love for God but His love for us that endures forever (Psalm 136)This is what grace does.  It creates the only chance for constant growth in our lives.  If we are bogged down by striving for perfection or striving to please the Holy One, then we are going to throw up our hands and walk off the field (as the excerpt shows at the bottom of this post).  Legalism creates Licentiousness, Grace creates thankfulness.  This goes for all relationships:  father/son, mother/daughter, husband/wife, brothers, sisters, coaches/ballplayers, and friends.  Relationships grow where grace is present.  When you think of others in your life, take some time away from searching for their sin or mistakes and GIVE THEM GRACEI have to preach this to myself everyday.  Not only does it help with my stress level but it produces bountiful relationshipsIt most importantly though, gives me the constant gospel reminder of the grace God has given in Jesus Christ.

Here is the words from the mockingbird article that I referred to a couple of times.  It is a great picture of a broken ballplayer who didn't live up to his unrealistic expectations.  It isn't until he washes ashore that he finally finds rest (ex. Jonah's prayer in Jonah 2:1-10).

          We here find all-star, pro-bound shortstop Henry Skrimshander at rope’s end. With the promise of a record-breaking professional career slipping through his fingers, all big-dollar offers disappearing, the on-the-field errors just continue to mount for Henry, who can’t seem to get a grip on what’s happening to his omega-narrative of baseball glory. What does it mean when your efforts can’t stop the bleeding and, in fact, are making things worse?
The final straw comes on none other than Henry Skrimshander Day, by way of a crucial routine groundball that Henry fields, but then freezes. He cannot throw. He simply freezes, hands the ball off to his pitcher, and walks off the field, to a horrified audience; he disappears. After the game ends, and his friends begin to worry about his whereabouts, Harbach brings the story back to uniformed Henry, treading water in Lake Michigan, all alone in the night sky. Here, alone, all dreams dashed by the last crushing error–he can finally see himself and the erred logic that got him there. Sure enough, it is only in the middle of the sea, in the chaos of one’s wasted perfections, that one finally washes ashore and finds rest.

           He turned around to face the campus, those few little lights pricking the distance. He let his bladder go, peed into the water. It calmed his whole body, if only for a moment.  All he’d ever wanted was for nothing to ever change. Or for things to change only in the right ways, improving little by little, day by day, forever. It sounded crazy when you said it like that, but that was what baseball had promised him, what Westish College had promised him, what Schwartzy had promised him. The dream of every day the same. Every day was like the day before but a little better. You ran the stadium a little faster. You bench-pressed a little more. You hit the ball a little harder in the cage; you watched the tape with Schwartzy afterward and gained a little insight into your swing. Your swing grew a little simpler. Everything grew simpler, little by little. You ate the food, woke up at the same time, wore the same clothes. Hitches, bad habits, useless thoughts–whatever you didn’t need slowly fell away. Whatever was simple and useful remained. You improved little by little till the day it all became perfect and stayed that way. Forever.
He knew it sounded crazy when you put it like that. To want to be perfect. To want everything to be perfect. But now it felt like that was all he’d ever craved since he’d been born. Maybe it wasn’t even baseball that he loved but only this idea of perfection, a perfectly simple life in which every move had meaning, and baseball was just the medium through which he could make that happen. Could have made that happen. It sounded crazy, sure. But what did it mean if your deepest hope, the premise on which you’d based your whole life, sounded crazy as soon as you put it in words? It meant you were crazy.
When the season ended, his teammates, even Schwartzy, gorged themselves on whatever was handy–cigarettes, beer, coffee, sleep, porn, video games, girls, dessert, books. It didn’t matter what they gorged on as long as they were gorging. Gorging didn’t make them feel good, you’d see them wandering around, dazed and bleary, but they were free to gorge and that was what mattered.
Henry knew better than to want freedom. The only life worth living was the unfree life, the life Schwartz had taught him, the life in which you were chained to  your one true wish, the wish to be simple and perfect. Then the days were sky-blue spaces you moved through with ease. You made sacrifices and the sacrifices made sense. You ate till you were full and then you drank SuperBoost, because every ounce of muscle meant something. You stoked the furnace, fed the machine. No matter how hard you worked, you could never feel harried or hurried, because you were doing what you wanted and so one moment simply produced the next. He’d never understood how his teammates could show up late for practice, or close enough to late that they had to hurry to change clothes. In three years at Westish he’d never changed clothes in a hurry.
He treaded water for a long, long while, feeling and endless spontaneous power unspooling from his limbs. It seemed he could do it forever. Finally he turned toward shore and let his limbs swim him in, aided by the waves that lapped at his back. When he reached the shore he knelt on all fours and slurped the funky algal water like an animal. He couldn’t see the lighthouse, and he wasn’t sure whether it lay to the north or the south. His body gave out all at once. His teeth were chattering, really clacking away. His shoulders convulsed, his lungs heaved. He had his whole life ahead of him; it wasn’t a comforting thought. He peeled off his wet clothes, nestled into the sand as deeply as he could, and fell asleep.

That is my pitch for the day!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


We all know the verses where Jesus is asked what the greatest commandments are don't we? It comes from Matthew 22:35-39. Jesus tells the Pharisees who are testing him that the great and first commandement is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. The second, is to love your neighbor as yourself. If we all examine ourself honestly, none can say they have ever loved God this way and for sure haven't loved other people this way. It may be easy to feel like we love our parents or spouse or children like this, but no one could even trick themself into thinking they fulfill this command when it comes to neighbors or strangers. We just don't have that much love in our heart, it is too tainted with sin. I will use this post for a confession. I do not invest into my literal "neighbors", where we live, in this way at all. Considering proximity, our closest neighbor is a sixty year old Puerto Rican man from New York. I regularly see him doing yardwork on his property and give him a encouraging wave or "hey, how are ya?", but rarely do I take the time to walk over and have good conversation. What keeps me from doing this even though I do at times feel led to invest my life into his more?  Part of the reason would be that you would expect that an early 30s, semi-country boy born and raised in Georgia, couldn't find common ground for conversation with a older gentleman of his background. So the first hindrance to a relationship would be that there is the thought that we have nothing in common. That isn't totally true though. The times we have spent chatting I found out that he is a Vietnam veteran that served around the same time as my dad did. That is very cool. He is also an avid baseball fan, particularly the New York Mets. Since I have my background in baseball and have had good friends that have played for the Mets, we had that in common to talk about. Also, he has battled cancer and is a professed Catholic. He loves the same God I do. Since we are both Christians in need of daily grace, we have that in common too. My point in this is that we, in our sin, put up walls to keep from meaningful relationships that may hinder our comfort in life. We expect things out of relationships with our neighbors that may not be the case or even what God would want out of your life for them. As I grow in grace, I see the need to let that spill out to the community and for my neighbors. Yesterday, as I rushed out of the house to run some errands with the family, I saw my neighbor and his wife outside working in the yard again. I felt like God was telling me then that the gospel frees me to take time out of my life, and what I want to do, and spend it on others like my neighbor Julio. I've heard it said that Grace "makes Outsiders Insiders" and redefines community. It puts us all, Christians and non-Christians, in the same boat. We are all sinners in need of God's sovereign, saving grace. We always have that in common. Ephesians 1:3-9 talks about this lavish grace. This grace creates joyful living and freedom because of what Christ has done for us. It eventually will pour out to others in your community. In no way am I saying that I need to do more for and with my neighbors so that I can please God more, or be a "better" Christian. My point is that when the gospel of grace grasps your heart more and more this type of life will be the outcome.  God's grace is the fuel for a life centered on the gospel.  The gospel gives us the freedom to live this life because it, with no strings attached, gives us everything we need. So what have we been given by this Grace? Here is a short list of what we are and have because of God's past grace and future grace through Christ:


When we realize that we have "earned nothing, but received everything", as I've heard Pastor Tullian say, we can freely rest in Christ's righteousness and the freedom that comes from it. This freedom will allow us to live like Romans 15 states:

"Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me."...Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God...May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope...In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me."

That is my pitch for the day! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Liberate is the new ministry of Tullian Tchividjian and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. The message is pretty simple. The Gospel is a about freedom and liberation for those who believe. Jesus came to set the captives free, the Righteous for the unrighteous. The truths in scripture tell us many things that break the bondage of sin and give us hope and joy in our life now. Remembering the finished work of Christ in every situation does this. The days of trying to be good enough to earn God's favor are over. The days of resting in Christ Crucified and Risen are now. This reformation is exploding to God's glory and Jesus' namesake. Liberate is a big part of this. I was fortunate enough to make a trip down to Fort Lauderdale this February for Liberate 2012. The speakers were amazing, the worship time through music was incredible. There are DVDs available from this year's conference. There is really no way I would miss the one planned for next year titled "Grace in Practice". My constant prayer is that God's grace hits me in every aspect of my life. I pray I believe it better and through the Spirit it takes over more than I can imagine. I need it applied more and that comes from growing in grace and in the knowledge of Him. "Grace in Practice" is the perfect topic to move to from last year's "Grace Unmeasured". Realizing the scandalous grace God freely gives and believing it better, produces better grace in practice. The video below was just posted a couple days ago, so I figured I would share it and write about it. Check it out and visit the site some. It is a very rich resource that glorifies God. That is my pitch for the day!

Friday, July 13, 2012

God Is For Us!

Reading a daily devotional, I came across a great section today.  Charles Spurgeon writes about how God is for us. His sovereign grace sent Jesus for us and it rushes down on us still, as daily unconditional love.  I liken the thought that He is "for us" to the star baseball player in a league.  I remember the days in Dixie Youth after the pre-season draft when you would want to know which team the star players were on.  You would ask, "Who does he play for?".  Sometimes you would wish he played for your team so that your chances of the team having a great season would improve. 

I think sometimes we forget or overlook the fact that God, the Creator, is in control and leads our team. He lead us to seek him and promises that everything will work for our good and His glory.  Our sinfulness still wants control and dares to question His work in our lives, but that sin is covered by His grace too.  The Holy Spirit's job is to convict us of these thoughts or actions and lead us to true repentance.  A repentance that makes us run to Jesus, the keeper of the Law for us.  I love this quote:  "Praise God, He is the Lawgiver on the Throne and the Lawkeeper in my heart.  He who gave the Law, Himself keeps it!" -Watchman Nee
To know that the Sovereign Lord is "for us" gives great comfort and peace. Here is the excerpt from Spurgeon's devotional.  Enjoy!:

It is impossible for any human speech to express the full meaning of this delightful phrase, “God is for me.” He was “for us” before the worlds were made; he was “for us,” or he would not have given his well-beloved son; he was “for us” when he smote the Only-begotten, and laid the full weight of his wrath upon him—he was “for us,” though he was against him; he was “for us,” when we were ruined in the fall—he loved us notwithstanding all; he was “for us,” when we were rebels against him, and with a high hand were bidding him defiance; he was “for us,” or he would not have brought us humbly to seek his face. He has been “for us” in many struggles; we have been summoned to encounter hosts of dangers; we have been assailed by temptations from without and within—how could we have remained unharmed to this hour if he had not been “for us”? He is “for us,” with all the infinity of his being; with all the omnipotence of his love; with all the infallibility of his wisdom; arrayed in all his divine attributes, he is “for us,”—eternally and immutably “for us”; “for us” when yon blue skies shall be rolled up like a worn out vesture; “for us” throughout eternity. And because he is “for us,” the voice of prayer will always ensure his help. “When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies be turned back.” This is no uncertain hope, but a well grounded assurance—“this I know.” I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up for the answer, assured that it will come, and that mine enemies shall be defeated, “for God is for me.” O believer, how happy art thou with the King of kings on thy side! How safe with such a Protector! How sure thy cause pleaded by such an Advocate! If God be for thee, who can be against thee?
That is my pitch for the day!  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pitching the "Bait" of Grace

This is part of a post I made on another blog page, but I thought I would share it here as well.  It is my pitch for the day!

My reason for this post is to look at the verses and gospel truths in the Bible where Jesus uses fishermen and talks about being “fishers of men”.  In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus calls his first disciples.  This comes at the start of His ministry.  He walks beside the Sea of Galilee and goes to Simon Peter and Andrew, both fishermen.  Jesus calls them to drop their net and follow Him and he will make them “fishers of men”.  He then went on to call James and John, also fishermen. 

We have all heard this story growing up and may have looked at it in our maturity, but I have never heard this story with a grace-alone mindset.  Jesus didn’t make these disciples fishers of men by giving them a to-do list or five-step program to catching Christians for the Kingdom.  He worked on these born fishermen by changing their hearts and minds by grace.  He showed them how all of Scripture points to Him.  He healed broken people before their eyes.  He preached the gospel unashamedly in the synagogues.  He gave them Grace!  By Jesus being able to live the gospel out amidst Peter, Andrew, James, and John he changed their hearts and opened their eyes to Him.  Jesus made them fall in love with Him.  They constantly saw His mercy, forgiveness, devotion to the Father’s Will, and grace in practice. 

In chapter 4 of Matthew, Jesus calls them.  Then in chapter 5 he gives His Sermon on the Mount.  This preaching was not to be a self-help manual.  It was to break any self-righteousness the people might have been holding on to.  This sermon was meant to make these folks run to Jesus, for His righteousness.  When seen the right way, the Sermon on the Mount is about freeing the captives of sin.  If you may have slipped through by not understanding parts of the Sermon, thinking you are doing ok, the end should be the wall you crash into.  Jesus says therefore “Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect”.  As humans, in total depravity, we can’t do that.  Thank God for Jesus fulfilling the Law and satisfying the things seen in the Sermon on the Mount for us!  When we grasp the gospel more and more we then feel free to obey God and be “Christ-like” out of a joyous, thankful heart.  There is no freedom in works-righteousness, trying to please God by obeying the Law. 

The topic at hand is being “fishers of men”.  Our role in others’ salvation is just to tell them about God’s grace found in the life-death-resurrection of Jesus.  As these “fishermen”, we are to make folks wish the gospel was true and then show them that it is.  We can’t live out the gospel, even a little like we need to, to be like Jesus.  What we can do is tell of His grace and mercy as faithful believers changed by the Good News.  This is the “bait” that will change hearts through the Holy Spirit. 

My prayer is that we can believe this better.  The truth of the gospel needs to be believed in all aspects of our life.  My hope is that the Spirit will work in me where I bring this from my home to the bank and from the bank to my baseball lessons.  Everyone needs grace and the life-giving freedom that it brings.  As I deal with my wife, kids, customers, friends, young ballplayers, parents, and family members, these gospel truths should be the center of my thoughts and actions.  So to be fishers of men is to give people the truth of the gospel:  that our sin is big, but God’s grace is bigger.  You can’t outrun His love for His children.  Bring this to wherever God has you right now.  That is your mission field, given by His sovereignty.  We are empowered and freed, as Christians, to live our life as "sent" people within our culture (John 17:17-19).  That is living in light of the gospel.  There are people around you, including yourself, that need it everyday!  Amen.
That is my pitch for the day.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My All-Time Roster

1927 New York Yankees (110-44)

On Pitching the Gospel most posts are gospel-centered.  Some have had baseball themes but most have been based on topics of scripture and grace in our life.  This one will be different.  Nolan and I have recently been looking at legends of the game, as I stated in a previous post.  That led me to tie in this vintage baseball to God's unchanging, "vintage" gospel. 
Today's post will be about my official All-Time Major League Baseball Roster.  The picture above is the team photo of the '27 Yankees, widely thought of as the greatest team that ever played.  They dominated the whole season, finishing 19 games ahead of the second place team.  Of course they went on to win the World Series by sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates that year.  The roster included 7 future Hall of Famers, if you include manager Miller Huggins.  Highlighted in this lineup were Yankee greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  Since they are the only two that made my starting lineup and played on the same team during their careers, I figured I'd give a shout out to that great ball club of the past. 
I will start off by listing my Starting Lineup.  Although, there shouldn't be too much debate on some of these selections, I know that a couple will be questioned.  I will offer some reasoning on my picks in the summary below.  Also included will be a few subs and the rest of my pitching rotation.

Mitch's All-Time MLB Roster:

1.     Ty Cobb              LF                   Reserves:
2.     Honus Wagner     SS                   Rogers Hornsby     IF
3.     Willie Mays          CF                  Albert Pujols          1B
4.     Babe Ruth            RF                  Stan Musial            OF
5.     Ted Williams        DH                  Hank Aaron          OF
6.     Lou Gehrig           1B                   Ivan Rodriguez       C
7.     Chipper Jones      3B
8.     Johnny Bench       C                    Remaining Rotation:
9.     Eddie Collins        2B                  Christy Mathewson, Greg Maddux,
--     Walter Johnson     P                    Cy Young, Nolan Ryan
CL   Mariano Rivera     P

Playing Left Field and leading off for my starting lineup is Ty Cobb.  I think it is debatable, but he could be the best all-around baseball player of all-time.  Over 4,000 hits and showed some power in the Dead Ball era, he was no doubt one of the best hitters of all time.  Also, his base running and love for the game was unmatched in history.  He is the perfect lead off man for my squad.  It also helps that he is from Georgia!

Batting second is my shortstop Honus Wagner.  He is best known for having the most valuable baseball trading card because of its rarity and age.  He was a very versatile player and was always the best defensive player on the field.  He didn't look athletic, but could run well and play any position.  He led the league in hitting EIGHT times and even Ty Cobb himself said he thought Wagner was maybe "the greatest star to ever take the diamond".

My third hitter is Willie Mays.  This 24 time all-star had it all.  Speed (330 SBs), Power (660 HRs and 1900 RBI) and Average (.302 for his career), and Great Defense (12 gold glove awards).  I'd be pretty happy having him roaming center field for me.

Babe Ruth needs no explanation.  He is THE best power hitter of all time and possibly the best hitter.  He was doing things during his career that no one had ever seen.  He is my clean up hitter and right fielder.

If I get a DH, and I do because this is my team, it is Ted Williams.  A pure hitter with average and power.  He was one of the toughest outs in major league history so I have to put him in my lineup.  His defense is said to be sub-par, so we will just let him bat fifth and watch Cobb, Mays, and Ruth play defense out there.

First baseman Lou Gehrig had maybe the most impressive career of all.  His RBI totals were amazing and had he not had a shortened career due to illness, he may be a career leader in most categories.  I don't think there is any debate that he is the greatest first baseman of all-time.

Batting seventh and playing third base, from YOUR Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones!  One of my favorite players ever deserves this spot.  His career has been amazing, even including his high number of injuries.  No one can take away that '95 World Series ring either.  Most people would argue that Mike Schmidt deserves this spot, but I just can't agree with that being a given.  Chipper has a career batting average of over .300 and Schmidt's is a lousy .267.  Yes, Schmidt was a little more solid defensively and had more Power than Chipper, but Jones is probably the second or third best switch hitter of all-time.  I want him in my lineup, so he is.

Johnny Bench was the leader of one of the greatest teams of all time, The Big Red Machine.  He was also a great defensive catcher.  Bench was one of the best power hitters during his career as well.  Easy choice behind the dish for me. 

Second base is where I had to do the most research.  The first names that came to mind were Rogers Hornsby, Joe Morgan, and maybe Pete Rose (who played some 2B) but further digging gave me Eddie Collins.  This man was a defensive gem waiting to happen and his career fielding percentage was an outstanding 97%.  He was a part of over 1,200 double plays.  Collins was also a terrific hitter with a career average of .333.  He holds the career record for sacrifice hits, which is important to any team.  He had 512 of them during his career.  To add to all of this great performance, he stole 741 bases and scored over 1800 runs in his career.  We are talking about a ballplayer who was a part of 4 World Series Championship teams.  He wins the spot as my starting second baseman.

My number one starting pitcher had to be Walter "Big Train" Johnson.  He threw sidearm, so I have a little bias to that.  He also played his entire career with the Washington Senators.  He piled up over 400 Wins, 530 complete game, and also a record 110 of those were shutouts.  His career 2.14 ERA is remarkable.  He won over 30 games twice along with two MVP awards.  As you'll see with the rest of my rotation, I like workhorses on the mound.  Walter Johnson may have been the best workhorse ever. 

The closer for this team has to be Mariano Rivera.  Of course his regular season stats are tremendous but nobody comes close to what he did in the post-season.  A champion on and off the field.
The rest of my starting staff is Christy Mathewson (.67 Win%), Greg Maddux (4 CyYoungs & 18 GoldGloves), Cy Young (511 Wins and 749 CGs, both records), and Nolan Ryan (7 No-hitters and over 5,000 career strikeouts).  Like I said they are all workhorses that wanted to throw complete games every time they took the mound.  They all racked up outs, innings, and Wins with very little damage.
My reserves are as follows:  Rogers Hornsby as my utility infielder because of his versatility and great hitting ability (almost a .360 career hitter with over 300 homers!).  My outfield subs are two of the best hitters of all-time and I couldn't leave them off the team, Hank Aaron and Stan Musial.  I had to add one more current star and that is my back-up first baseman Albert Pujols.  The man has hit over .300 with over 30 HRs and 100 RBI in every single season he has played.  He is on his way to being a legend in the game.  Lastly, my back-up catcher is Pudge Rodriguez.  Arguably baseball's best defensive catcher ever.  Plus, he hit over .300 for his career.

There you have it, my All-Time Roster.  Feel free to debate it through the comments.  It was fun to come up with this and I'm sure if I kept looking I'd have the urge to add to or edit possibly.

That is my pitch for the day.  Thanks.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Independence Day

Yesterday was July 4th, 2012.  Our Nation is now officially 236 years old after declaring Independence.  Looking through some posts yesterday I came across a quote from John Quincy Adams that provoked some more thought about Independence, but even more Dependence.  Here it is:

"Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day [July 4th]? . . . Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity. . ?"  -John Quincy Adams

These are some great questions he brought up.  One of the main reasons for declaring Independence was for religious freedom.  So in short, they were declaring Independence from a government and big church structure, so that they could proclaim Dependence on the "Savior of the World".  God designed humans to be free.  This spiritually speaking as well.  Jesus came to set the captives free.  We, as Americans, can understand the impact of this.  Over time our Freedoms as citizens has been lost slowly but surely, but also our Freedom in Christ have been forgotten or overlooked in religion.  We need reform in many ways right now.  Very important is the reform we need in Washington back to how our Founding Fathers designed this government through the Constitution.  But most importantly, we need a reformation to continue to grow individually and in the churches in the U.S.A.  We must get back to the Five Solas from Scripture that pushed on the Protestants of old and started the Reformation in the past.  We need a New Reformation.  Those five things are summarized in one sentence:  In Scripture Alone, we see that we are saved by Grace Alone through Faith Alone in the finished work of Christ Alone to the glory of God Alone!  Enjoy your freedom because of Jesus' blood shed for it.  He accomplished what we couldn't.  As Christians, we can rest under the banner that reads "It is Finished".  As Americans we hope to rest free from Tyranny or an oppressive, intrusive Government.

I wrote a letter to an unnamed soldier that I would like to share.  It relates God's plan and work through Jesus to what our American Soldiers do, and have done, for us and our country.  I hope you enjoy it.

             Dear Brave American Soldier:

I write you from the security blanket you help provide here back home in the United States.  I am a Christian and this letter will reflect how I feel about your work for our country in that context.  I can’t send a generic thank you letter; it has to come from the heart. 
            You are part of a force for Good in this world.  Freedom is not free.  The life of a U.S. soldier demonstrates the highest Christian virtues.  Your selflessness and grace for the citizens of our great nation is much appreciated.  With the current problems our nation faces at home and the constant bickering and even some negative voices towards our military, the citizens and leaders don’t deserve this kind of sacrifice you give.  But you do it anyway.  You do it out of a love for us and the greatest country God gave the world. 
            My dad served in this way in the Vietnam War.  He is a great reason for my support of the military apart from what our government’s motives are.  I am so thankful for the Patriots like you and my dad that God raised up to sacrifice their life and limbs.  Feel certain that I will pray for you as an unnamed soldier.  I will leave you with the encouragement that only can come from a merciful, loving God shown in Jesus Christ.
            Jesus can be your source of Power, Courage, and Hope needed.  He knows War; He left the impenetrable stronghold of heaven to face a million enemies who hated Him.  The odds were against Him, but He won.  He conquered.  He died and rose again.  His death ultimately undid the world’s brokenness and provided a way to mend the brokenness of our hearts.  We don’t see War and Death done away with yet, but we will!  Jesus resurrected after His crucifixion and ascended back to heaven.  We now await His return to ultimately do away with this broken world and officially usher in a Peaceful everlasting Kingdom. 
            I see this paragraph’s thoughts are what you, as a soldier, do for us.  It’s Grace.  It’s laying down your life to fix and protect something you love.  Too many times we hear about what we need to do to get right with God or what we need to do to impress God or earn His love.  It’s not the truth.  His love and salvation is by Grace alone.  We can’t earn it.  It’s the same with you.  I haven’t earned what you are doing for me and my family.  You do it out of Love for our country and I sincerely thank you and love you for it.  Know this for now, God is more near than we know.  He is making all things new and using you and your fellow soldiers to do this.  Tell them thank you for me.  It goes for everyone doing this great work for our country.
From the Heart-

That is my pitch for the day.  Go in Peace and Freedom!  Amen.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Gospel Baseball"

I don't do this too much but I have to share another's post today.  He titled it Gospel Baseball so I had to click and read.  He does a brilliant job of relating a certain instance in a ball game to the truths of the gospel.  The author's name is Danny Q and I just happened to stumble on the post from his church's blog.  Again, it is great and I had to share.  Enjoy:

"True story…
An overweight baseball player hits the ball way down centerfield.  Without hesitation, the tubby player does what he always does… makes a quick base hit and runs as fast as his body will allow toward first-base, but always stopping at first-base.  Except this time, he decides to go for it.  Somehow, he musters the courage to go for second-base, just hoping that long-drive down centerfield has bought him enough time to get to there.  After running over first-base, he turns the corner and guns it…
And then his biggest nightmare happens.
Something trips his feet up and he stumbles onto the dirt, rolling over once or twice.
The crowds begin to laugh…
The frantic athlete finds himself on his stomach, fearfully crawling like a hyperactive, overgrown baby back to first-base.
Tap… his fingertips grip the plate.  I’m safe at first, he thinks to himself.
And the laughter persists.
The hitter looks up embarrassed, as the first baseman approaches him.  Tapping him on the shoulder, the first baseman looks down at him and with a big smile says, “Hey buddy, get up!  You hit a homerun!!  Run, man!”
Completely stunned yet overjoyed, the hitter gets up… cleans the dirt off his uniform… and he peacefully jogs passed second-base, then passes third, and as he makes his way to homeplate, the world sees the biggest smile this man has ever made in his entire baseball career.  The crowd goes wild as they cheer.  He finally makes it Home.
The man failed to see he made a homerun because his fears and insecurities blinded him from what he thought was impossible: Winning.  He was so used to being handicapped by his weight, other people’s perceptions, and his past performances, that he couldn’t even imagine doing better than just okay.
Sometimes I think a lot of us go through life like this…
And like a lot of people, I have a lot of my own fears and insecurities.  For instance, I often wish I were taller.  I worry about finances.  I often wonder if certain people don’t like me and constantly have to remind myself not to care so much about that.  I remember being picked on as a kid for being different, Asian, un-athletic, and/or emotional.
I moved around a lot so friends were a luxury I couldn’t afford.  In fact, we couldn’t afford a lot of things as a family during my childhood like cool clothes, expensive restaurants, or extravagant vacations.
As I grew up, the desire to belong and be accepted grew bigger and bigger as my ultimate destination.  And the vehicle that was going to get me there was going to be my performance.  My performance in school, at work, in relationships… always had to be stellar.  And eventually, I carried this performance-driven nature into religion.
Before I became a Christian, I figured as long as I was a good person, it would be enough to secure my spot in heaven… and hopefully, God would just hook me up with decent neighbors.  Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at myself.  So clueless.
But after I became a Christian (which is a whole other story in itself which I’m sure will warrant another blog later), I believed as long as I did good, God would love me more.  And the less bad I did, the less likely I would be punished.  With this in mind, I figured I would “base-hit” my way into God’s love and acceptance of me by performing well, whether it was through diligent Bible study, praying and journaling regularly, or even sacrificially serving others in and outside of the Church.
I eventually got myself to buy into the lie that I could actually earn God’s favor.  Despite my mistakes, my shortcomings, my fears and insecurities, as long as I performed well, God and I were good.
It didn’t take me long to find myself constantly burned out, frustrated, and disappointed in myself for not being able to hold myself accountable to doing more, being stronger, better controlled, less angry, more like Jesus… because I realized I was trying to be my own savior, instead of letting Jesus be the Savior He was always meant to be.
Thankfully, the truth of the Gospel is this:  Jesus hit the homerun I never could…
The Gospel says Jesus lived the perfect life I never could and died the death that I deserved all so that I could be given the righteousness I was always meant to have but could never earn on my own.
By dying on the cross and raising Himself from the dead, He gave me the right to come Home(plate)… an act I could never do by myself.  And His homerun-hitting redemption goes beyond me, and beyond you even… He plans to redeem all creation through the power of the resurrection.
It’s funny.  I don’t really consider myself a “baseball guy.”
But generally-speaking, I think the world loves to witness when the un-expected, the outcasted, or even the underdog goes against all odds… and wins the game.  There was a line that Billy Bean, former-manager for the Oakland A’s baseball team, used to say whenever the underdog did unexpectedly well: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”"

How good was that?  That is (Danny Q's) pitch for the day!

Scripture & Photographs

            I had an idea for an addition to my blog.  Nolan can have some of the credit because here lately he has been very intrigued by the legends of Major League Baseball.  It all started with a series of kids' books we read that involved the ghosts of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Mickey Mantle.  Ever since we read those he has wanted to learn more about these players and that important time in baseball.  His uncle Luke spurred on his interest by showing him more of these men in some Hall of Fame books.  My little man loves baseball.  I reckon growing up around professional baseball is the reason for his "obsession".  Of course, I wouldn't have it any other way.  We have a lot of memories at the ballfields and a few photographs of our own.  My favorite being a particular one at Harbor Park in Norfolk.  Nolan is probably 20 months old, holding a plastic bat and running the bases with me after the game.  He really enjoyed those trips around the infield. 
           Back to my addition to the blog, it can be found at the bottom of the page below the posts.  I plan on adding pictures as I find them.  I will find cool photographs of hall of fame players and attach some sort of scripture to it that is relative.  For instance, today I added a great shot of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  It is a close-up of their faces, with both having intense focus in their eyes.  The scripture attached is from Revelations when it talks about God's face.  The fire in his eyes.  My hope is that everyone enjoys the picture, reads the scripture and then heads to their Bible to read the context around the verse.  Then the Holy Spirit can lead where He wants from there.  The Bible is the Word of God, our way to hear His voice now.  He has everything to say in this book and any way I can lead others to open it is a plus.  So scroll on down after you read this and check out my gallery I have gotten started on.  Feel free to comment about the pictures or on anything that the scripture says to you.  Those comments can be made on this post.  Enjoy!
That is my pitch for today.  Love y'all.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Spirit-Driven is Gospel-Driven

I wanted to enter a blog post on the work of the Holy Spirit in our life.  It is one of the most overlooked aspects of a Christian’s life, mainly because our sinfulness wants to think we can do it on our own and be in control.  Also, the concept is hard for us to grasp. 

Jesus promised before His ascension that a “Helper” and “Counselor” is coming (John Chapter 14).  He was referring to the presence of the Holy Spirit in His children.  The book of Acts has example after example of how the Holy Spirit works in us.  A person cannot say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 12:3).  This means that any of us that put our Faith in Jesus’ saving work on the Cross do it from the GIFT of the Spirit in us from the Father.  The examples we see in Acts and beyond into the New Testament, are precisely the ways the Spirit works in us.  Our prayers should be based on asking God to work in us through the Holy Spirit.  So our question would be what is the Spirit’s main work in us?

John 16:7 basically tells us that the Holy Spirit was sent to be with us in Jesus’ place.  Jesus is no longer present as He was in the gospels.  That responsibility now falls on the God-sent Spirit.  It’s unimaginable for us as humans, an invisible God dwelling in us.  Our interpreting scripture, growing in grace and in our prayer life, is all the work of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the reality of God being in our life.  It is a huge responsibility for the most under-valued part of the Holy Trinity.  It is Jesus’ Spirit (The Spirit of the Lord) that brings us freedom (2 Cor. 3:17).  It also gives life to the dead, our only Hope.

As I have stated in other posts, the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict us to shame and guilt for us to change.  He convicts us to push us back to remembrance of the gospel of grace for repentance and changed hearts.  This gives us Hope, Joy, and Thankfulness towards a God that loves us that much.  Being sinful, we need this reminder daily throughout our life.  The presence of the living Spirit in us is essential to a Gospel-Driven life.  A Gospel-Driven life is essential to the Freedom Jesus came to give us (Luke 4:18).

So as you reflect on these truths remember that we are saved by rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, making us justified by His grace (Titus 3:4-7).  
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)  Amen.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A True Gentle Man

Yesterday was Sophie's 3rd birthday and on days like this you reflect on their short life so far.  I look at how the style of parenting Becky and I have had has affected our children.  Discipline is very important in a child's life, but all kids are different.  Our approach with Nolan was a lot simpler than with Sophie.  Nolan is the law-keeper, people-pleaser, good boy who will tell on himself if he does something wrong.  Sophie is the independent, moody, break-the-rules to your face kind of girl.  Don't get me wrong, Sophie has just as much of a sweet side and fun-loving personality as Nolan.  It's just easy for her to turn it on and off.  That being said, our discipline approach to the two has to be modified to get their attention.  My struggle comes in those times by being too quickly agitated and too harsh in my tone or words instead of persistent, loving, give-them-grace discipline (Becky is so much better at this with her patience).  Whether your kid is a rule-following pleaser or a rule-breaking schemer, they both need Grace as the root of their discipline, not more strict rules.  As parents we should always use those times to remind our children of the "dazzling" love and grace God gives us through Jesus' finished work which paid our debts for the sins we have done and will do.  This is what changes hearts.  My hope and prayer is that, as a parent and husband,  I can move into a more gentleness towards those I love.  This can only happen if, through the Holy Spirit, I continually have reminders of the gentle, forgiving, gracious, and merciful love God has shown me.  That led me to this Prayer from a book that I read.  Patience and Gentleness go a long way in all relationships, especially parenting and being a husband.  Enjoy!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5
     Dear Lord Jesus, there is no one more gentle with me than you. There is no one as welcoming of sinners… kind to the broken… or understanding of the struggling as you. Gentle, yet persistent… gentle, yet firm … gentle, yet so very powerful.
     You’re like the perfect surgeon—the one I want working on me. You never get nervous, flustered, agitated, or quick. You have a steady hand because of your steady heart. O, how I need you to do ongoing gospel surgery on me if I’ve going to be a true gentle-man—someone whose gentleness is evident to all, and not just evident to the people that are so easy for me to be with.
     Gentle me when I’m behind slow drivers who stay in the fast lane. Gentle me when I face both fair and unfair criticism. Gentle me when I think things that are obvious to me ought to be obvious to everybody else. Gentle me when loud boorish people invade “my space”—as though I have some inalienable right to a non-interrupted life.
     Gentle me when I’m too tired to engage, but my wife really and appropriately needs me to listen. Gentle me when I need a nap but my grandson needs to play. Gentle me when someone gets the last cookie I was already planning on enjoying with a glass of milk.
     Gentle me when the vacation gets cut short by crises. Gentle me when friends keep making the same mistakes and foolish choices. Gentle me when the restaurant sends me home with the wrong takeout order. Gentle me when Satan starts condemning me for things I actually did, but things for which you already paid my debt.
     Gentle me when I start debating theology rather than loving the people who see things differently. Gentle me when it gets too humid to run, disrupting my plans. Gentle me when I cannot fix the very people you never gave me to fix.
     Jesus, you are so near me in the gospel, in fact, you live in my heart. You’re also “near” in terms of coming back to finish making all things new. May your nearness generate a much quicker repentance on my part. Make me a gentle-man by the gospel and for your glory. So very Amen, I pray, in your kind and loving name.

-Scotty Smith, Everyday Prayers (pg.176)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Everything good and noble in our world should magnify Jesus' name.  I think Memorial Day does that in many ways.  It is a picture of what Jesus did for us out of unconditional love. Fighting a war for freedom is exactly what Jesus did on the Cross.  He finished the war and won it on that day.
Soldiers have been a picture of this unconditional nature by risking and/or giving their lives so that we can have and keep our freedoms here in the United States.  I think those who risked their life deserve just as much praise as the ones that gave their life.  So to anyone who reads this, that knows God spared them, I thank you just as much.  I want to use this post to share another blog post I read on the subject.  It is very well written and makes some tremendous points.  Let's keep Memorial Day something that these men and women deserve and earned. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Webster's definitions of sanctify/sanctification are: 

1. To make holy, to set apart as sacred
2. To purify or free from sin
3. to render legitimate or binding
4. to entitle to reverence or respect
5. to make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing

The Theopedia (Biblical Dictionary) has these definitions:

1. To set apart by God for special purpose
2. Riches of Divine Grace
3. Change brought about by God

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says Sanctification is "the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness."

This is a word from the Bible used in sermons in different ways to get Christians motivated to get better.  The definition is rarely explained and new Christians probably just glaze over the deeper meaning of it.  I know most of my life, until recently, I have never really looked into what this means and how God does the work in us.  I wanted to get my thoughts down on the subject after reading three or four articles/sermons relating to "Christian Progress".
Too many of us think that Christian progress is about us and our dedication and love for God.  Or we think that we get better with each "good" work we do for God.  Let me remind you that our dedication and love for God is not unconditional or enduring, but His love endures forever (Psalm 136).  Others look at it as they make progress with each time they refrain from outwardly sinning.  The older a person gets, the more tired they get.  If Christian progress is based on a mature 50-something or 60-something outwardly sinning less because they've already sowed the oats of their youth, then sanctification isn't very powerful or meaingful.  I believe, Biblically, there is more to it.  God gets all of the Glory in our sanctification.
Sanctification is a work of God through the Holy Spirit.  Sanctification is a process that will be completed in glorification before we reach His presence.  We have to be Holy as He is Holy to be present with Him (Matthew 5:48).  We are not Holy in the least but the Bible promises that this work process in Christians will be faithfully brought to completion (Phil.1:6). 
My default position on things biblical are these truths:  1. God is Sovereign over everything and has had His plan before time began.  2.  He gets ALL the Glory and is deserving of it.
When I put those two things to my thoughts on Sanctification I have to take myself out of the equation.  I have no part in santification.  The more the Holy Spirit reminds me of that and helps me remember God's gospel of grace found in Jesus, the more thankful and responsive I become.  That is sanctification in my life, Andy getting smaller and Jesus being magnified by the Holy Spirit.  This act of "dying daily" is sanctification.  This produces the fruits of the Spirit through thanksgiving in our life.  We are saved by Grace alone through the gift of Faith.  Therefore, our sanctification or Christian progress is not by our own works or efforts (Romans 11:6) but by standing still as what we are, sinners helpless without God's grace.  Being sanctified is living under the freedom-giving Grace of God and knowing you can't earn it in any way.  We are saved by Grace alone (Romans 3:24) and sanctified by growing in Grace alone (2 Peter 3:18). 
When we fail to look to God's grace and Jesus Christ, we start looking at ourselves.  When this happens a self-righteousness can take over because our hearts are sinful.  The act of holding in sinful desires and not acting on them is not what it means to be a better Christian.  Realizing and believing more and more that your only Hope, because of this sinful heart, is found in God's grace alone and is defeated by Jesus' finished work in His life and on the Cross, is the act of Sanctification.  This makes me so thankful and gives me a heart to respond to these truths (Hebrews 13:8-9).  Amen!  Love Y'all.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

God's Grace fulfills God's Law

""Run John Run" the Law demands, but gives me neither feet nor hands.  Better news the Gospel brings.  It bids me "Fly!" and gives me wings!"
-John Bunyan (Puritan/Reformed Baptist preacher and author)

Let's start dissecting this quote with "Run John Run".  The Law is good and perfect.  It is God's Law.  It shows us everything we are to do to be right with God.  It paints a picture of sinless perfection.  This is what is expected by God and the only life that can be in the presence of God.  The Law tells us to do, do, do or work, work, work towards favor from God.  It should be seen by us as a wall in which we, as sinners, crash into on our own.  We cannot scale that wall and we cannot live up to its "demands". 

Enter the Good News.  The Gospel brings this news to sinners.  "It bids me "Fly!"  The Gospel tells us we are free through Faith in Jesus.  It lifts the burdens of our sin and gives us the "wings" or fuel to live out a more Christ-like life.  The gospel liberates us because it tells us there is nothing we can do to earn God's favor.  The gospel is not about us.  It is about Jesus Christ alone.  It is about His finished work in his life and on the Cross.  It is an unconditional love that we just have a hard time wrapping our minds around.  It is hard for us because we don't do it in our relationships.  We are conditional in our friendships, parenting, and marriages.  Grace changes all of those relationships for the better.  Deep down we expect God to be conditional, but His gospel of grace shows us that he is not.

Grace's role in our "good works" is the key.  We get it backwards so much.  We think we are becoming a better Christian by measuring our works with others.  We look at our spiritual growth by looking to ourselves and what we need to do as a part of it.  Our actions are the fruit of God's favor on us, not the root of God's favor.  Christians obey God, or show some fruit in their life, because God is already pleased with us.  We shouldn't obey God to try to earn his favor.  As I have already mentioned, the Law shows us we can't live up.  Obeying God and good works is a result of the Gospel, by grace alone.  It shows a Living Faith in our life that we could not acheive on our own.

So what good is the Law then?  First the Law is good because it shows us our Sin and our need for a Savior.  It makes us very thankful to Jesus when we break God's commandments.  The Law also shows us how to love God and others.  God's commandements throughout the Bible and especially in the book of James, gives us a picture of what Jesus is and what He was for us.  Because of Jesus' life and death, this is now how God looks upon us.  It is as if we have always lived in accordance to His law.  Not by anything we have done, they are filthy rags, but by everything that Jesus already accomplished for us.  Realizing that truth is the "WINGS" and fuel for our Christian growth.

By God's promise that He is making ALL things NEW and the Holy Spirit's ministry in us, we are being made new and becoming more like Christ.  Pastor Tullian has a quote that fits here.  He says, "When we realize we are IN with God and we don't have to DO anything, it makes us WANT to do everything."  That should be the fuel for our spiritual motors, the constant reminders of God's grace found in the Gospel.

In Romans 7:4-6, Paul explains this "new way" we live by Faith:
"Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code."

Throughout the rest of Romans 7, Paul continues to talk about the Law showing us our sin.  He also goes on to talk about him wanting to do good but because of this sin it is hard for him to do it.  He says about his sin in verse 15,  "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."  As Christians the Spirit teaches us to hate sin, although we still struggle with it.  During this part of scripture you can feel the Law breaking Paul when he says in verse 24, "Wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?"  As I stated earlier, that failure we feel makes us thankful for the One who frees us and fulfilled the law for us.  Paul praises Him at the end of this chapter as this Deliverer he seeks, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" 

A great quote for this topic:
"When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against the One who loved me so, and sought my good."
- Charles H. Spurgeon
God's Law is good, we are the problem.  Jesus is the solution and the work is FINISHED.  For freedom He came to set us, the captives of sin, free. 
That is my pitch for today.  Amen.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Explaining the "Pitching the Gospel" title

Welcome to Pitching the Gospel

So I decided to come up with a new name for my blog, something more representative of how I have been using my writing on here.  I initially wanted to use the blog to bring the truths of the gospel to lyrics from songs I liked or relate it to situations from sports or scenes in movies.  Beyond the first two posts, I wasn’t really led in that direction while writing my entries.  I have used it more of a place to comment on what, through the Spirit, I am learning about my relationship and standing with God through Jesus Christ.  In that sense, I am “pitching” gospel truths on here.  Not a "sales pitch" because the gospel is so much more than that.  The gospel should never be reduced to that because the Holy Spirit doesn't need a salesman's help.  Jesus' life and grace does make you want to tell people about them though.  I pray that I am "singing His praises" on this blog, on pitch musically speaking and in line with Scripture.  Also, I hope to be "delivering" the truth of God's Word.  A clever play on words since I spent a long time in baseball pitching my heart out.  I hope to pitch my heart out again in a fresh and new way.  
I’ve heard it said that we should tell people about the Gospel so that they wish it were true and then show them that it is!  I hope to do that on here because I believe God’s grace and mercy is more awesome and radical than we even know.  There is also a quote from Charles Spurgeon that I love.  He was asked by someone, “Now that I know this truth, how do I defend the Gospel?”  His answer was great, “The Word of God is like a Lion.  You don’t have to defend a lion.  All you have to do is let the lion loose and it will defend itself.”  God’s Word is so powerful and His Holy Spirit and sovereignty cannot be stopped.  There is no part of our life or relationships where the gospel isn’t the answer.  If you struggle with something personal, apply a picture of God’s grace to it.  You will be wrecked afresh.  My first example would go back to my career in baseball.  I did not get a chance in the big leagues.  I was disappointed.  I have doubted myself, if I gave it all I had or wondered if I could have done something different to make that last promotion happen.  I also felt like I needed that validation for my hard work and that recognition from my peers.  When I apply the Gospel to that, I have no questions.  Any validation, recognition, love, or accomplishment I think I missed out on I have in my relationship with Jesus and standing with God.  By Grace alone, I have been made an heir of God’s kingdom and been given Christ’s righteousness.  Would a few years in the big leagues or not have changed any of that?  No sir.  That is what it means to cling to the Cross.  It is all we need.  Accomplishments and blessings here on earth are freely given by God anyway.  When you don’t like your situation then you are ultimately questioning God’s work in your life.  He will have you where He wants you.  As sinful men and women we will always struggle in these areas of doubt, disappointment and unbelief, but through continued reminders of the gospel we always keep the focus on Jesus and His grace for us.  This is always the answer that the Holy Spirit eventually teaches us in every situation.  Run to Jesus, who accomplished all you will ever need.  And that is my Pitch for today.  Amen!   

Monday, April 30, 2012

Paul/Jesus Conversation

I ran across this example on a blog I stumbled upon.  It is a short conversation between the Apostle Paul and Jesus, using scripture from John 1:17 and Rom 8:15 as talking points.  Very cool dialogue worth sharing.  Enjoy.

Paul: It is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

Jesus: Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.

Paul: Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Jesus: I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Jesus' words should be a comfort for sinners.  Because He is strong, we are free to be weak.  Because He Won, we are free to lose.  Because He came to save sinners we should come to his table and drink, as Robert Capon* called it, 2000 year old, "two-hundred proof Grace".  It's all Grace, we have nothing to offer.  Turn your religious half-hearted efforts into joyful obedience knowing that "It is Finished" by Grace alone because He loved you!

*Blog on Robert Capon excerpt link:

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Last Verse.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are considered the Gospels in the Bible.  Although every book in the Bible points to Christ, these four are the historic accounts of Jesus’ life as He walked on this earth as the God-Man.  There are so many instances in these books where Jesus performs a miracle or does something so gracious.  Those times when He was doing these great things for people around Him, He was earning our salvation for us.  He was fulfilling God’s perfect and Holy Law in our place.  For example, Jesus healing the blind man was Him helping the weak or handicapped.  He did this because He knew I would walk right past people like this most of the time in my life.  He also knew that the few times I did do something for someone, I would do it out of pride or to make myself feel or look like a better person.  Even our good deeds are tainted with sin.  It took Jesus performing and living out these miracles and perfectly obeying God’s laws to replace our sinful disobedience throughout our lives.  This is just one small example of how Jesus came to earth to live this way for us.  One big example of Jesus doing something in our place is on the Cross.  He took the punishment, the penalty for our Sin in our place.  Our disobedience had to be put to death and Jesus did this for us.  What an awesome act of GRACE.  Also by the gift of Faith, we can accept the Son’s perfect obedience and death in our place for eternal life.

That brings me to my main point of this post today.  I want to take you to John 21:25.  This verse is the final verse of the four gospels.  I think it packs a BIG punch to show us how small we are and how GREAT Jesus is. 

“Now there are also many other things that Jesus did.  Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”-John 21:25.

 I have never closely read this verse until this morning.  God’s Holy-inspired Word is perfect.  I think by ending the gospels in this way it leaves us with a large Hope for future glory.  Not only that, but when you finish reading the four books that precede this sentence you are amazed at all that Jesus graciously did in His life through obedience and miracles, all that He sacrificed on the Cross by punishment and death, and then the power shown at His resurrection to new life.  Then this verse says there is more!  The Bible can’t hold it all!  Jesus’ life was completely full of “good deeds”, “perfect obedience”, and was the fullness of God’s Grace, God’s Will and God’s Glory.  But still, the world cannot hold the rest of the great things Jesus did in His life on earth.  We only get a glimpse in the Bible of all the amazing things He did. 

That brings me to my final question.  If the Holy Bible doesn’t include even most of it and the world could not even hold the amount of books that would have to be written to tell us about them, then what CAN hold it?  Where will we find out more about how great He is?  I believe the answer is in Heaven.  If we read John 20:30 it says, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” 
God knew what we needed to hear to believe.  He only gave us a glimpse of these “signs” of all that Jesus is.  Earlier in the book of John, in chapter 14 Jesus says:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.””

What a great and comforting verse for people to have that hope of a life with Christ in His father’s house.  The last chapters of John are full of places where Jesus speaks to give comfort and hope that He will return for His people.  I have peace knowing that ALL of Christ’s fullness and greatness will be held in Heaven.  When my death comes or when Christ returns we will, for eternity, be praising Him together.  I am sure, by grace alone, our sanctification will be completed at this time (Phil. 1:6).  We will see and understand everything that the Bible didn’t tell us and that this world couldn’t hold.  With this revelation, our eternity will be FULL of praise and thanksgiving to the One who is worthy of it.  I believe my Father’s House can hold it all! 
Because of Grace, go in Peace!  Amen.