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.

 

 

The Lion, The T-Rex, and The Movie Theater

There I was eyes wide, fingers buttery, with popcorn spilt across my chest, oohing and awing like a little kid…but let me give you some context.

My wife and I just recently saw the latest dinosaur movie, I forget its name, something like Jurassic Park: Return of the T-Rex Strikes Back. Honestly, I’m not sure how many of these movies there are, but I do know they will keep making them as long as the money keeps pouring in.

But I digress…the movie itself was very enjoyable. But it was one 2-second scene towards the end that captivated my attention. This particularly brief shot did not add much to the movie’s plot itself, but it did, however, send shivers down my spine and cause me to think about it hours after I had left the theater.

So, let me set it up for you, the dinosaurs have just broken free (spoilers, sorry…but the trailer kind of already gave that away) and the no-longer-extinct creatures are now running around places they don’t belong. Then suddenly the camera pans to the T-Rex’s feet which break down a sturdy metal fence as though it were made of toothpicks. There is a pan out and we see the entire T-Rex and all of its terror. He lets out an eardrum-rattling roar and then we see the full, wide angled shot. The T-Rex’s roar is met with an equally loud, but different and recognizable roar. We see a lion, standing defiantly on top of a cliff, face-to-face with the dinosaur king.

This is the shot that raised the hairs on the back on my neck. The King of the Jungle fearlessly facing off against a seemingly unstoppable foe.

As I sat and thought about this picture I couldn’t help but think about the day to day frustrations and problems that we face. When they come one at a time the problems may not seem too big. But problems, frustrations, and stresses all add up, and before you know it, we have a dino-sized weight dragging us down.

My favorite thing about imagery is that it helps us to wrap our minds around bigger and deeper truths. The Bible uses a lot of imagery as well. One picture that it paints is of God, specifically Jesus, as being the Lion of Judah. (Genesis 49, Isaiah 31, Revelation 4-5)

Pictured as the Lion, Jesus is unequaled in power, royalty, majesty, and triumph. He easily destroys His enemies and fervently protects His own. He is to be respected and feared, honored and worshiped.

C.S. Lewis chose a lion as the main character in his allegorical epic, The Chronicles of Narnia. And I believe that Lewis really gets to the point of it all when one of his characters, when speaking of the wonderful lion Aslan, says, “Safe?… Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Our God is not safe, but He is good. He is the king, I tell you!

We can be sure of this, if we belong to Him, the Lion will fight for us.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our most terrible and overwhelming struggles are spiritual, not physical. And Romans 8 gives us wonderful news, “If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

No matter how big or scary the dinosaurs in our lives look and no matter how loud they roar, we must be confident that our Lion is still unquestionably the King.

 

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. -Proverbs 18:10

120 Over 80

Don’t ya just hate going to the doctor’s office?

I mean, sure, it’s necessary and all…but come on. No matter how good I feel about myself going in I always feel like an unhealthy blob when I leave.

I feel like I should take a moment here at the beginning to be sure to thank all of the incredible men and women who dedicate years of their lives to medical training. I am incredibly thankful for all that they do in order to help ensure the health and safety of others.

With that being said, I still don’t like Dr.’s appointments.

I have tried to nail down my reasoning for being apprehensive. It is the long wait? The florescent-headache inducing lights? The uncomfy bed-table thingy covered in the paper stuff that they make you sit on? The slightly judgmental look when you answer the “how many cups of coffee do you drink a day” question?

No. It’s not that stuff. The reason I don’t like going to the doctor is that every time I go I am reminded that I should be doing better, but I am not.

I am not as physically fit as I should be and that is no one’s fault but my own.

My doctor can tell me to cut back on the donuts, exercise more, and drink less coffee. But ultimately it is up to me, and only me, to make those decisions that will actually impact my health.

My health is my responsibility.

And guess what? The same goes for spiritual health.

Pastors, teachers, and mentors all are of tremendous value in pointing us the right way and helping us to grow in our relationships with God. It is so important that you have a person, who is more spiritually mature than you, to help guide and direct you. We need godly examples in our lives to help motivate, correct, rebuke, and instruct us.

But as the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”

Pastors can show you the good news of the Gospel, preach to you the truths of God’s Word, and exemplify Jesus’ love…but eventually, you must make your own choice.

You, not your mom, dad, spouse, pastor, teacher, friend. No, you choose whether or not you will live out a spiritually healthy life or not.

You choose what unhealthy things you will cut out of your life or not.

You choose whether you will exercise your faith or not. Whether you will stretch your discipleship and evangelism muscles or just allow them to atrophy.

But what will you choose to be?

Will you be spiritually obese? -Going to church on Sundays and reading your Bible every day, but yet never sharing with others what you have learned? Maybe you know a lot about Jesus and the faith, but you never actually do anything with that information.

Will you be spiritually malnourished? -Never cracking the Bible open for yourself? Maybe you try to do a lot for others, but you never actually allow your own soul to be nourished by the truth.

Or will you be spiritually fit? -Consuming truth both on Sundays as well as every other day and actually allowing that truth to transform you. Being both a hearer of the Word and a doer of the Word.

It’s time that we get serious about our own spiritual health.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

Not My Name

This week at my church is the incredible, exciting, draining, and yet fulfilling event known as Vacation Bible School. VBS has always been an extra special time around here, and last night was just the beginning of what I am sure will be a fantastic week.

Last night in the Bible lesson we talked briefly about the Tower of Babel. Do you remember that one? It’s in the 11th chapter of Genesis if you would like to read it for yourself. (You probably should.) One of the neat things that I have experienced at just about every VBS that I have ever been a part of is that the truth shared is just as relevant for adults as it is for the kids.

Anyway, back to the Tower of Babel. Actually, the story is more about the people than the actual tower. You see, God has told mankind twice now in the book of Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Gen. 1:28, 9:1) It’s important for us to understand that God’s command to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth is about much more than just simply having babies. It is about obedience to God and making His name great.

The problem with the people of Babel? They chose not to obey God. The settled down instead of spreading across and filling the whole earth, and they tried to make themselves famous instead of God.

The ancient people ignored God’s instructions, clustered together, and tried to make themselves great.

Sadly, not much has changed.

People now, just like people then, have a tendency to ignore God’s clear instructions, cluster together in alike tribes, and make themselves great-often at the expense of others.

So, what do we, who have put our trust in Jesus, do about this? Or how should we respond?

We first start by looking in the mirror.

God’s Old Testament command is echoed in the New Testament when Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) God told Adam and Eve to reproduce in order to produce children who would know, obey, and love God. God now tells us to produce disciples who know, obey, and love Jesus.

But the temptation to cluster together and build a name for ourselves is ever-present. Sadly, at times, churches can be so focused on programs and events that they lose sight of what is truly important.

We cannot worry about increasing our church empires, we need to be focused on increasing His Kingdom.

Francis Chan has a pretty matter-of-fact quote “Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better but keep them in one big pile and they stink horribly.” Ouch.

The Bible is pretty clear that those who follow Jesus are to be lights in this dark and dying world. We need to shine in the dark and we cannot allow the comfort of our familiar tribe to prevent us from doing so.

Tribalism is a dangerous and unproductive thing and it has no place in the church of Jesus Christ.

Now, let me be clear, I am not advocating that we stop spending time with the people whom we love and are comfortable with. What I am saying though is, let’s be sure to be active in our love and Good News witness to people who don’t fit inside of our cookie cutter vision.

There are a whole lot of people in this world. Many of them do not look, think, act, smell, sound, or see things the way you do. That is O.K. Our objective is not to make people become just like us. Our goal is to show people how to become like Jesus.

I don’t want to make my name great.

I want to make His name great.