Stay in the game. No matter what.

Monday night was epic. At least in my world. You see, I play co-ed softball for my church. In fact, I have been playing for 10 years and coaching for the last 8 of those. Our team is 8-0 this year. I don’t think that I have ever been 8-0 in a season before, ever. This year has been different. We keep winning. This last win was an epic come-from-behind win on Monday night. Not only did we come back to win, we did it in a crazy, abnormal kind of way. Let me explain.

softball glove and ball

We were the home team. The other team bats first and they score 5 runs in the first inning. Not good. I was starting to think this could be a long night. We only scored 1 run that inning. Second inning saw no score for either team. After the third inning, there was a small ray of hope as we edged closer. The score was 6-4 but we were still losing. The next three innings came and went. We scored nothing and they added 4 more runs. After 6 innings, they had 10 and we had 4. This does not look good at all.

So here we go. The 7th and final inning. They are up to bat. In the first six innings, we have made some major errors. If I think about it, we committed more errors in these 6 innings than we have all year-long. But being the optimist that I am, I still think there is a chance. And kudos to my team, they never gave up. So, we get the three outs before they score any runs. Now we get to bat. Down by 6 and only three outs before the game is over.

We are at the top of our lineup. I hit a double to lead off the inning. The next two batters both get on base and I score. 1 run. Our #4 hitter hits a long fly ball and both our runners tag up and score. 2 runs. Batters 5 and 6 get on base and batter number 7 hits a shot to right center. He is fast. At this point, I am coaching first base. As soon as he hits, I start waving my arms yelling at him to score. Like he needs any encouragement. =-) So his hit scores 3 more runs.

You doing the math? Game is tied! And, we only have 1 out! Batter #8 hits a blooper which is caught. Now there are 2 outs and our #9 batter steps up to the plate. Here is the funny part. He has almost no experience in playing softball. He does not even own a glove! What’s more is that he is a soccer dude. As a player and referee, he knows the game of soccer. He has only batted up 8 or 9 times this year. This is it. It comes down to him. He may not be a softball expert but he has heart. And the heart matters. He hits a routine fly ball to the right fielder. Now all he has to do is run. Run Forest Run! And boy can he run. He plays soccer! Of course he can run! He proceeded to run around the bases so fast that they didn’t even bother making a play on him at home. 1 more run.

And we win! 11-10! I am not really sure if my words are doing it justice but it was absolutely one of my favorite softball moments. It will stick in my mind for a long time.

funny softball pic

 


Switching gears. We live in an evil world. Sin is blatant and rampant. I don’t really watch the news because it seems that everything is bad. Why just tonight, my wife told me that Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy broke up! What!??! What is this world coming to? Death and destruction, without putting too fine a point on it. Hell. That is what this world is coming to. And doesn’t it seem like God isn’t really doing anything? Do you ever feel like the evil is so much and the good is so little? How can I, one out of 8 billion, make a difference? 

I think our world is in the 7th inning. We have one last at bat. There have been lots of mistakes but the game isn’t over yet. There is one more batter to go. He may not appear to be everything we would hope for but he has heart. And the heart matters. Here are some verses from Matthew 24

1Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2“Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are the beginning of birth pains. 9“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

 

Note verse 13. You see, it is not about being the best or having all the talent. It is about staying in the game. I am glad that I stayed in Monday night’s game.

No matter what, you need to stay in the game.

You screwed up?

Your sin comes out?

You feel like throwing in the towel?

Your friends are leaving you?

Divorce?

Addictions?

Jesus says to you, “Stay in the game. I love you. I will come for you. Keep playing and stay in the game.”

So be encouraged. Stay in the game friend!!! 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope…so what?

So what? That is the question. We have the Person, Plan and Place of Hope. But why? There is a Purpose of Hope and to illustrate it, there is an Old Testament story that most beautifully describes Hope.

Jericho. You remember the story, right? The promised land was right there in front of them. The Israelites just crossed the Jordan river. BUT in the way was the massive, walled city of Jericho. Joshua gave the orders that came from God. The people marched. The people shouted. The walls fell! Praise God!!! Now the conquest of the promised land could get under way. Hold on…we need to take a closer look.

walls of jericho

Joshua 6: 15-19 says, 15On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. 18But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”” You can read chapter 6 here.

The people followed God’s directions and the city was captured. Verse 18 says to “keep away from the devoted things,” Let’s keep that phrase in mind.

The first verse of chapter 7 give us a telling picture of the heart of man.

But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.” Italics mine.

Achan stole some plunder for himself. And, as a result, was stoned to death along with his family. Here are the last two verses of chapter 7, “25Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.” Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.”

The Valley of Achor. This is where we meet the story. Yes, we are living thousands of years later but the principles are the same. We can “covet” the devoted things of this world. In fact, that word, Achor, means trouble or disturbance. You know what I am talking about here. Not all of us deal with the same stuff but we all have that sin in our hearts. You might be a chronic liar or filled with anger. Does gossip push your buttons? For me, I was addicted to pornography for years. I am sure that all of could identify with Achan. We want things. We can live in the Valley of Achor.

That would be depressing if we live in a valley of trouble all of our lives. So now we get to the Purpose of Hope. Turn in your bibles to Hosea 2.

The prophet Hosea comes on the scene. Israel is being unfaithful to God. Just like Achan, I might add. Kind of like us at times. The prophet is describing how God will bring judgement. Not good. But then in verse 14 of chapter 2, God starts pursuing Israel. Here are the verses, “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”

The Purpose of Hope is to show us how much God loves us. He decided to allure her (Israel). They were adulterous. He will lead her, speak to her, give back to her the vineyards. In fact, what ever was trouble, God will turn into hope. Israel was in the Valley of Achor both literally and figuratively. But God changed things. That valley of trouble is now a door of hope. That is how much God loved Israel.

He loves you and me that much also. Romans 8 says that nothing can separate us from the love of God. We always can come back to God.

And that is the Purpose of Hope.

To remind us that there is Hope even when all hope seems lost. God will not forsake you. Come back to Him. Enjoy Him and all of His glory. Surrender your life to him. Let Him turn your Valley of Achor into a Door of Hope.

wooden door

Chemistry, Christ, and Colossians

Today is the first day of Lent so I thought I would post my wonderings about it. To do this, I want to make a comparison from the realm of chemistry. Please keep reading even if you hate science! This will worth two minutes of your time. =-)

The Law of the Conservation of Mass states that mass cannot be created or destroyed; it is merely rearranged.

Here is a chemical equation with chemical symbols: CH4 + 2O2 = CO2 + 2H2O

Same equation in word form: methane gas + oxygen = carbon dioxide + water

Again but in picture form:

conservation of mass 3

If you look at all the atoms, they are the same on both sides of the equation. There are four different substances but the amount of matter is the same.


 

Now let’s take a look at the idea of giving up chocolate for Lent. Fred is pretend. I am using Fred as an example so anybody named Fred is not to be directly associated with this post. =-)

Fred has 100 units of energy to spend each day of his life. These 100 units can be divided up however he wants to divide them. Fred really likes chocolate. He devotes 10 units of energy to chocolate. Thinking, buying, making and the eating of chocolate takes up 10 units of the 100 units that Fred has each day. The other 90 units are spent on everything else. Fred is disciplined so he only devotes 10 units for chocolate. Never more and never less. For Lent, Fred decides that he will give up chocolate. It will be difficult be he thinks he can do it. Now, he has all 100 units of energy to delegate to whatever he wants. Just because he always gave 10 units for chocolate does not mean that he loses those 10 units when he gives up chocolate. He has 100 units and will always have 100 units to spend. This is the law of the conservation of mass working in his life.

Let’s see if we can put this all together.

I can pursue God however I would like. Reading my Bible, praying, going to church, worshipping, or having coffee with another believer are all ways I can do this. I have the same amount of time that everyone else has. There may be a myriad of ways to spend it but it is there everyday. For Lent, the idea is that I am supposed to give up something. Great! But now what do I do with the extra time I have? Fred has 10 units of energy (that he used to spend on chocolate) that he gets to spend on some other thing. Maybe he will read or write or play a board game.

If I give up something, what will I do in place of that thing?


 

Whatever you are doing this Lenten season, I hope it helps you to draw closer to God. If you need to fast or give something up for these weeks leading to Easter, than do it. Make an effort to find God in a new way. I think Lent is about clearing the clutter and listening for our Lord. Whatever actions that means for you, awesome.

Remember the law of the conservation of mass. You will spend your effort on something so you might as well make it something great.

Colossians 3:17 says “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

 

Funnel or Bucket?

Hello friends and family! It is December 2nd right now and I have been reflecting back on 2014 and also looking ahead to 2015.

2014…what a year! Here are few highlights;

  • I celebrated 14 years of marriage to my beautiful wife.
  • My kids are doing well in 1st and 4th grades.
  • I will have performed 50 wedding ceremonies in 2014.
  • In July, I gave the Invocation at the Packer Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
  • Lastly, I started a blog.

I am sure I could list more but that is not the point.

 

SO….

the point 2

 

 

If I am not more like Jesus than I was in 2013 than my list of things I did in 2014 is pointless.

In 2015, I am setting goals and changing things in my life. All for one purpose, to be more like Jesus. If my life is a funnel, being like Jesus is the smallest part, the very tip of the funnel. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, must flow through that one little section. If I am not a funnel than I would probably be a bucket. I would fill up on whatever comes my way. I’d rather be a funnel than a bucket.

So expect some changes with my blog. There might even be times when I will ask for feedback. Feel free to comment when asked or even if you are not asked. I welcome your thoughts.

So get ready friends, 2015 will be full of change. Which one will you be?

funnel2   OR      bucket

Again…and again…yet again.

When I was a kid, I fell constantly. As an athletic boy, I was ALWAYS the messiest boy out there. Whether making a sliding tackle or sliding into second base, I was repeatedly getting dirty. The tops of my knees are permanently scarred from all of the scraps. It’s not that I was clumsy or uncoordinated, but rather, I played with passion. Baseball was my best sport. I played third base. Making a diving catch was the highlight reel that played over and over in my mind…and sometimes, it really happened!

Even now, in my forties, I play softball. I feel like I played my best when I can slide. Oh, and just in case you are wondering, I always slide head first. I have more fun that way. =-) In fact, I need to wear pants (as opposed to shorts) so that when I do slide, the wounds are much less severe.

The picture is Pete Rose, not me. Pete Rose and Roy Staiger

The other kind of falling down is the kind that is not so fun. In baseball, sometimes you strike out. In soccer, sometimes the other guy gets past you. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion for which you were hoping. It might have been the harsh words you had with your spouse. Or, if things are really bad, you lose a job because of some bad choices. The gambling problem eats away your savings account. The affair you thought you never would have has become reality. You fell down. Mistakes were made and you fell down.

Now you have a choice. Get up or stay down?

If I did not have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe, I would say that getting up is stupid or useless. Just get another job. Just file bankruptcy. Divorce is so common these days. Move away to another state. Yea…just stay down.

But I do have an ongoing relationship with the Almighty God and so I say get up. Yes, I fell down. But I am playing with passion right? So I am going to get up and keep going.

Whether you are down because of your own doing or something that has happened to you, make the choice and allow God’s grace to help you back up on your feet.


Here is what God’s word says about us when we fall down, “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10. When we fall, He is right there next to us.

He will help you get up. He is ready to brush off the dust. He will give you a pat on the back. He will tell you that He loves you. He will teach you something. He will remind you that His plan for you only works if you get up.

Take it from someone who has fallen way too many times to count, getting back up is always the best choice.