Good Pitching, Boring Game

Just a few days ago a group of friends and I went “out to the ballgame.” It was a beautiful night for baseball, 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

As we found our way to our seats my expectations were not very high. You see, I am still dealing with the fact that my favorite team is no longer the better team in the city. Our fan base once had 108 years’ worth of trash talk for the other team…and all that came crashing down just a few years ago. But I try not to be petty.

Instead, I look to the future. The team has fully embraced the concept of a “re-build” as they have traded away stars in order to acquire young prospects. They have told us, the fan base, “we are going to be bad now so that we can be good in the future.” It sounds weird, but I’m on board. After all, this approach did work out well for our Northside frenemies.

Anyway, back to the game. My expectations were low, but I was looking forward to seeing a few of those new young prospects in action, particularly the one who was on the mound.

The starting pitcher for the home team has been absolutely incredible of late, and he has been the talk of many local sports radio talk shows. So, even though my expectations were tempered I was excited.

The game began, and one inning slipped to the next inning routinely and mercilessly uneventful. The pitching was very good, particularly from our new young pitcher who finished 8 innings with a big fat zero earned runs and only gave up 4 hits.

But, aside from the stellar pitching and a pair of exciting doubles from our offense, the game was one of the most boring games I have ever been to.

We were entering the 9th inning still tied at 0-0. My wife and others in our group had gotten to the point of cheering for any batter, home or away, for no other reason but to end the misery of a scoreless game. No one wanted to prolong the boredom.

And that’s when I realized. Good pitching produces boring games. The average fan doesn’t sit there and analyze the pitcher’s performance. Casual viewers do not appreciate the beauty and skill that is involved in the pitcher just simply doing his job well. Instead; flashy catches, line drives, wild pitches, and close calls are what is preferred.

Good pitching can easily be undervalued and yawned at.

And you know what? Unfortunately, we can also be guilty of having that same attitude in life as well. A life well-lived, free from scandal or offensiveness, can easily be undervalued and seen as boring by many.

Following Jesus is NOT boring at all, I promise you. However, there are times where a certain, steady faithfulness is required.

Steady faithfulness when you can’t hear God speak.

Steady faithfulness when the mountains don’t move.

Steady faithfulness when church seems routine.

Steady faithfulness when all you see are plateaus.

Steady faithfulness when doing what is right is hard.

Steady faithfulness when doing what is wrong is easy.

Steady faithfulness when life is boring and dull.

Steady faithfulness when you don’t receive recognition for your hard work.

Steady faithfulness when life “over there” seems so much more exciting.

Colossians 2:6 encourages us who have received Jesus to, “walk in Him,” and to be, “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith.” And Colossians 1:23 describes those who continue in the faith as “stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the Gospel.”

The Christian life is not a boring one, I can assure you of that. But there are times when being stable and steadfast and unshifting in the faith may seem like a boring way to live. The reality, however, is that the things that our culture calls “exciting” are often the things that lead to the most frustration and destruction.

I am committed to following Jesus, if the people around me call that “boring” then so-what, my mind is made up and my game plan is set.

By the way, there was only a single run that was scored in that game I went to. It was a walk-off solo home run that sent the entire crowd into roaring celebration. That celebration was only made possible because of the good pitching that kept the other team’s score at zero.

There is a celebration in store for those who follow Jesus, and that party will be anything but boring.

 

 

We Pray

I once had a professor tell the class, “I am not really sure how prayer works. But what I do know is that it really does work.”

Think about it for a minute. God, the God who created you and me, along with countless galaxies, the same God who is so big and vast and beyond our wildest imaginations…that same God cares enough to listen to our prayers. Not only does He care to listen, but He loves to listen. He delights in hearing from us.

Is your mind blown yet? How about this one…The same God who tells the planets to keep on spinning takes the time to listen and care about you when you pray and ask, “Lord, please help me find my keys.”

Yep. There is no problem too big or too small for Him. Our trivial problems don’t annoy God, He loves it when His kids talk to Him.

We can do nothing in this life, that is of any beneficial significance, apart from prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us to “pray without ceasing.” The reason for this command is that our power and strength do not come from within ourselves. Instead, God is the source of any strength, any power, and any good that we can do. 1 John 5:14-15 reminds us that God hears our prayers and answers them.

God moves and works in concert with our prayers, but only when our prayers are in-line with His own perfect will. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly.” This is a stark reminder that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

But, if God were to only act whenever His people prayed correctly (in accordance with His will) then many things would never actually come to fruition. That why God acts independently and is subject to no other being’s actions. God is free to act on His own. As the almighty, most Holy God there is none above Him.

With that said, God does delight greatly in the prayers of His people. (Proverbs 15:8) Psalm 145:18-19 says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.”

It is very apparent all throughout the Bible that God both desires and delights in the prayers of His people. There are so many examples of God moving and working because of the prayers of His people. For example, in Acts, chapter 12 records a prayer meeting of believers who were praying for Peter’s release from prison. The result? A recently released Peter knocks on the door before their prayer meeting was even over with! God not only listens to prayer, He also answers prayer.

Prayer is our communication with God, it is the way that we talk with our creator and savior. There is no other thing; no program, philosophy, or natural strength that can surpass its power in our lives.

We know that God does not have to listen to our prayer, He is not bound by our words. And yet, He chooses to listen to us.

God listens, and prayer works. Praise Him for that simple and yet profound truth.

So, what do we do?

What do we do when we face uncertain times? We pray.

What do we do when the car breaks again and we don’t have money to fix it? We pray.

What do we do when we are frustrated with our overbearing boss? We pray.

What do we do when we feel distant from God? We pray.

What do we do when we look at the empty seats on a Sunday morning? We pray.

What do we do when tears come to our eyes when we think about our son, or daughter, or friend, or sibling, or spouse, or co-worker who does not know Jesus and His love?

We pray and know that God is listening.

Beyond The Walls

Things were a bit different in 1958.

Gas cost 25 cents! The average cost of a new house was $12,750! A gallon of milk only cost $1, and the average monthly rent was only $92! Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. Dastun cars went on sale in the U.S. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Jerry Lee Lewis were the most popular artists. Candid Camera and The Ed Sullivan Show were on black and white televisions.

It was in this world that a small group of people meeting in a small school in a small suburb of Chicago decided to form a church.

This coming week my church is anticipating celebrating its 60th anniversary of faithful service to our wonderful Savior.

It is such an honor to be a small part of the legacy of this church that has, for so long, been so committed to missions, youth, care for others, service to the community, and love for God.

This January, in anticipation of our 60th anniversary, we, as a church, committed to a theme for the year, “Beyond The Walls.”

beyond walls poster.jpg

The theme itself is a bit layered. First, we want to be sure that we are going beyond the physical walls of our building in order to share the good news of Jesus’ love with anyone and everyone that we meet. For 60 years we have been in the same geographical location (the church bought land across the street from the school it initially met in and built on that land.) And so, since we have been present in this community for so long we want to be sure that we are, and continue to be, committed to getting beyond the physical space that we call our church building. We want to be known as a church that gives to and loves its community.

Secondly, we understand that we, as a group of believers, need to continually pray that God would give us the boldness to get beyond our own emotional and spiritual walls that we ourselves have set up. Often times past experiences, frustrations, and fears cause us to put up barriers in our own lives in order to hide behind. When we put these barriers in place we actually end up becoming less effective in our love and service. So, we are praying that God gives us the courage to break down these walls in our own lives in order to better love and better share the good news.

As I think about all the people who have come and gone from this church I cannot help but think of just how good God is and how wonderful His family, the Church (worldwide) is as well. Over the years I, and others, have seen God use this church in order to transform lives, marriages, families, and communities. This church has sent out many missionaries, especially for its size, to go and serve all across the world. We may not be a huge church, but by God’s grace, He has allowed us to have a global impact. That is certainly something to celebrate.

The neat thing about this church, and any church for that matter, is the intergenerational connectedness that takes place. Older generations set examples and provide wisdom that younger generations can need to learn from. At the same time, younger generations provide encouragement, enthusiasm, as well as new and fresh perspective. Both, older and younger generations, would do well to learn from one another. The church is a unique place for this to take place, and it is exciting to watch happen!

The Apostle Paul repeatedly talks about the church as a metaphorical body. (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Colossians 1) We all need each other in order to function properly. The hand needs the arm, and the arm needs the legs, and the legs need the pinky toe. I need you and you need me. And we all need Jesus.

So, this week, praise God and thank Him for your church and how He has created it to be uniquely special in His kingdom. Praise God for His faithfulness to your local body of believers.

May we all, regardless of where we are, pray that God might give us the boldness to go “Beyond The Walls” in our lives in order to better love Him and love others! I pray that God would use my church, and yours as well, in order to impact this world for His good!

The Way Life Should Be

My wife and I are on a mission. Our goal is to, eventually, make a visit to all 50 states. We have been incredibly blessed to stop by, and subsequently get a magnet from, a decent portion of the 50 states in our great Union already. (Quick poll: if we have been to a state but forgot to get a magnet can we just buy a magnet on Amazon, or do we have to go back in order for it to “count?”)

Anyway, one of my favorites, if not the favorite, state so far would be Maine. (Fun fact: Maine is the only state whose name is only one syllable. Go ahead say all the states in your head, it’s true!)

I fell in love with Maine in a matter of minutes, literally. Now, I know that the short time I spent there does not necessarily offer a complete and fully accurate picture of what life in Maine might be like. But, with that being said, what I did see and experience was absolutely breath-taking.

I was debating of whether or not to share a bunch of pictures here and I decided to just go with the one. (Taken by my awesome wife, by the way.) The reason I am not showing more is that, even though the pictures we took turned out really well, they still do so little justice to just how beautiful it truly was.

God is such an awesome and incredibly creative creator. This world that He has made is so beautiful. (Read more about that HERE.)

Maine was awesome. The coast was my favorite. I could sit there on a rock and stare off into the ocean for hours. The blueberries were heavenly. The lobster was in mac n’ cheese. The donuts were exceptional. The trees were tall and skinny, just the way they should be. (Oh, also trees make up 90% of the land in Maine…so that’s neat!) The people were down-to-earth and friendly. And did I mention the coast?!

While we were driving we saw a sign that stuck with me. It read, “MAINE: The Way Life Should Be.”

I remember smiling and saying out loud, “yea, that’s about right.” I mean, if there is a way that life should be lived it probably is: on the edge of a forest-on the top of a cliff-next to a lighthouse-overlooking the ocean-eating fresh blueberry pancakes. Now, that’s living.

I kept thinking about that sign for the next few days and even weeks. The phrase itself makes my mind run to Genesis 2. Back to the Garden. Back to the way life should be.

That one chapter in the Bible where all was as it should be. Man and woman walking and talking and living and enjoying life together next to God. Together with God.

If you look around you today, you won’t find a picture-perfect garden paradise. Instead, you will see brokenness, pain, hurt, despair, sin, and death. This is not the way life should be.

That is important for us to remember. This new normal for mankind is so “not the way life should be” that God did something about it. He sent Jesus.

Jesus died on the cross so that we could experience life, abundant life. (John 10:10)

Jesus came to show us the way, and the way that life should be. (John 14:6)

And, God promises, for those who put their trust in Jesus, to take away all the things that stand in the way of “life being the way it should be.” (Revelation 21:1-8)

You may be reading this and be thinking, “that’s great! I have already trusted Jesus, but how do I navigate life today?”

That’s a great question. Proverbs 3:5-6 gives a great answer. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Trusting in Jesus today and tomorrow and the next day and the next…that is how we, not just survive, but thrive in this life.

Trust in Jesus.

That is the way life should really be.