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)