Friday, February 22, 2013

Playing with Purpose

have too many books. At least my wife thinks so. She may be right. Before we moved to Petersburg, she made me get rid of quite a few, but I still have a good stack. Most of them I’ve read, but there are a few that I just haven’t got to yet.

Right now I have six books on my desk that I want to read. Four of them on church leadership/disciple-making, and two concern making peace in relationships. I’m just not sure which one to start with. Maybe I should finish the two I’ve already started first. Then there are 66 other books I’m working on reading, and re-reading as well. I prefer those, which is probably why I don’t make as much progress on the others. Books are always better when you know the Author personally.

All that to say, who’s ready for some baseball? The lights have gone out (literally) on the football season, NASCAR’s losing its appeal, few people give a rip about professional basketball (although the NCAA’s March Madness still rocks), and hockey’s just another lock-out away from extinction. Bring on baseball!

Spring training has swung into action for MLB and games will be starting by the end of the month. Next thing you know, the regular season’s Opening Day will be here and you’ll be listening to Mike Shannon and John Rooney calling the play-by-play for the listening enjoyment of Cardinal Nation. You know spring is on the way when we start talking baseball.

What does this have to do with books, you might ask? My wife, who says I still have too many books, bought me a book for Christmas about baseball. She actually gave me two books. The other one is about marriage. Not sure what she’s trying to tell me there, which is probably why she gave me the book.

I read the one about baseball first. Don’t ask me why. It’s called, “Playing with Purpose,” and the author, Mike Yorkey, provides a look inside the lives and faith of some of the Major League’s top players. If you’re a fan of the game, you’ll recognize the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Beltran, Josh Hamilton, Mark Teixeira, Mariano Rivera, a guy named Albert, and several others. It’s a light, easy, inspirational read.

One of the players featured is from a small town not far from here. Ben Zobrist, who can and does play just about any position on the field for the Tampa Bay Rays, was raised in Eureka, once known as the pumpkin capital of the world, now home of Reaganfest, who’s 2012 logo showed the smiling and waving President ziplining.

Zobrist enjoyed a modestly successful high school baseball career but sure wasn’t on the radar of any college teams. He planned to go to Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, which didn’t even have a baseball team. He had prayed, “Lord, my life is yours, and I’m not going to be in charge. As for baseball, You can have that, too.” And as his senior season ended, he figured so did his days of playing organized baseball.

Shortly after graduation, however, Ben got invited to an open tryout where a dozen college coaches would be looking to fill some gaps on their rosters. He used $50 his grandparents had given him for his birthday to attend the tryout, not sure anything would come of it, but trusting in whatever God’s plan might be.

That plan eventually took him to the Majors, where Ben has become a solid player with a handsome contract. He says, “To me, coming from Eureka, where no other athlete had playing anything in professional sports, was definitely huge. It was like God was saying, ‘Look what I can do if you commit your work to Me and you just follow Me where I want you to go. I can do some things that you don’t think are even possible.’”

That’s some good reading there from a pretty good Author of life. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The miracle and mystery of marriage

I guess the real miracle is that two people from other planets can get along at all. Much more that they can live together, bear and raise children together, experience life’s dramas together and truly enjoy each other’s presence. Even more, I suppose, the mystery that the two can actually become one flesh.

Marriage is nothing less than a miraculous, mysterious union of two souls – one man and one woman – each from a separate world, yet welded together in an inseparable bond by the infinite wisdom and plan and purpose of a Divine Creator. How awesome is our God!

That strange creature who had cooties in the fifth grade, men, is now the love of your life, and you don’t know what you’d do without her. Ladies, that gross thing of a boy who used to peel dried glue off his hands in kindergarten, seventh grade and again in tenth grade is now the man you adore and can’t imagine what your life would be like if he weren’t in it. How do you explain that? It must be something supernatural.

And it is. From the beginning, the Lord God, who formed man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and who made a woman from man’s rib and brought her to him, instituted and ordained the sacred union of man and woman in marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

There’s nothing natural about it. It’s God’s supernatural design, and we are the beneficiaries of one of His most wonderful blessings. 

Husbands, let me encourage you to love and cherish and nourish your wife like never before. You are charged to give yourself up for her in love that she might be sanctified, unblemished, radiant and holy.

She needs your faithful, steadfast, unfailing love, man! God wired her in such a way that she needs you to care for her and provide for her and protect her and build her up. She may not say that, she may not even think that way, but that’s the way God made her. And your job is to love her like Jesus loved the church, by laying down your life for her, metaphorically and perhaps literally.

You can’t do that on your own. You need God’s help, and so do I. This preacher doesn’t even get it right sometimes. But if I’m to be faithful to the Lord in loving my wife like I’m supposed to, I must rely constantly on His help, trusting in His wisdom, looking to His Word, leaning on His strength, depending upon His Spirit to guide me.

And wives, let me offer a word from the Word for you, as well: “…and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). Men are wired by God in such a way that they need your respect. Your criticisms, complaints and corrections tell your husband that you don’t respect him. When you usurp his authority and God-given role as the head of the household, you’re disrespecting him and disobeying God.

“Well, he doesn’t deserve my respect,” you may be saying. Or, “When he starts loving me, I’ll start respecting him.” To which I’d reply, “Show me in the Bible where it says that your husband must earn your respect before you give it to him.” I know he’s not perfect, and maybe he doesn’t deserve it, but the One who created you and him and this thing called marriage knows how the relationship works best. You need him to love you unconditionally, and he needs you to respect him unconditionally. And you both need God’s help to do that.

Wish I had more space to flesh this out. I’m just getting warmed up. May the Lord bless your miraculous, mysterious marriage as you look to Him in faith.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Anchor for the soul

So they’re calling for 3-5 inches of snow Thursday, which means either a light dusting or about a foot. I remember a few years ago where we lived the weatherman expected some nasty winter weather and the administrators called off school. Guess how much we got? Nothing. Our boys enjoyed the “snow day” nonetheless. Weather forecasters don’t know everything. Sometimes they don’t know much.

Is anything for certain? Men make promises to their brides saying “till death do us part.” But the reality for many is that it’s only “till divorce do us part.” Your boss tells you the next promotion’s all yours, then the company downsizes and you’re out. Doctors may give a loved one six months to live, but they may not make it two weeks, or they may live on for years. And where did that 401k money go, anyway?

What can you really count on to be absolutely true all the time? I know of no guarantees except for the trustworthiness of eternal God and His flawless Word.

God is not a weatherman who looks at the Doppler radar and predicts what will happen next. He’s not a doctor who gives his best diagnosis then estimates the outcome. He’s not a faithless husband who refuses to keep his vow. He’s not a boss who makes promises he’s not able to keep, nor a finance agent who can’t return your investment.

The Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, knows all things and keeps His promises. There is nothing and nobody that can render God unable to follow through with His word. There are no unforeseen circumstances that come up and force Him to change His plans. Nothing catches Him off guard. There are no second thoughts with God. There are no guesses about what the future holds. There are no “what ifs” or “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s.”

There is no uncertainty and no doubt. When God makes a promise in His word, you can be sure that He will keep it. When He says that in Christ you’re free from the power of sin, believe it, stop sinning, and start obeying His will. When He says that He will never leave you nor forsake you, believe it, stop doubting, and start trusting Him more. When He says that He’ll take care of your needs, believe it, stop worrying, and start seeking His kingdom and His righteousness.

Do you think the gracious and glorious King of kings and Lord and lords will ever let you down, put you to shame or leave you with regrets? Do you think there’s a chance that the Prince of Peace will fill your soul with turmoil and fear when you humble yourself before Him and pour our your heart? Paul says this to the church, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Do you think it’s possible that the One who opened the eyes of the blind, cleansed the leper, made the lame leap for joy, set the captives free, healed the sick, drove out demons, and even raised the dead to life again, will refuse anyone who comes to Him in faith? Will He who laid down His life and shed His blood for the forgiveness of your sins condemn you when you repent and look in faith to the cross? Will He who conquered the enemy of death not also raise you to everlasting life and save your soul from hell when you receive Him as Lord and Savior?

There is much uncertainty in this world. People you thought you could trust will disappoint you. Things you thought were guaranteed won’t last. But our hope in Christ Jesus is an anchor for the soul. His Word will never pass away or lead you astray. He will keep His promises without fail. He always has and always will.