Screaming at T-Ball Games

Ok, I admit it. I scream at T-Ball games. Thankfully it’s not at the officials, (uh, except that one time, sorry Blue), but it’s screaming nonetheless. You see, I helped coach our son’s T-Ball team during “fall ball” and it taught me more about listening than two days at a leadership conference.

Here’s how it works. You go over (and over) the concept of looking and listening to the 3rd base Coach (normally my post) for instructions on running the bases. However, as you can imagine, the “listening” and “looking” are usually directed at a plane in the sky, or the big kids outside the fence instead of the coach trying to get them home safe, so there I am screaming at the top of my lungs “RUN!” Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand how natural it is for a 6 year-old to be easily distracted, but I catch myself ignoring God in the same way sometimes, so what’s my excuse? I mean, He gives clear instructions in scripture, but during the action I’m looking everywhere for direction except to Him.

Is there help for those of us who do that? Yes, it’s T-Ball 101:

  • “Look at the Coach!” – Not Mom, Dad, Granny or anyone else…keep your eyes on the Coach. Yes, there are times when other people help us (lots of times), but in the heat of the action we must keep our eyes and ears fixed on our Coach-Jesus! Hebrews 12:2 directs us to be “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” There will be lots of life noise around, but I need to learn His location and voice.
  • “Look strait ahead to home!” – Don’t watch the others players chasing the ball around the field, RUN! Sorry, I’m screaming again, but I imagine it looks like that from God’s perspective. I’m standing on the proverbial third base of life and could easily score, but heavenly shouts of “RUN Chris!” go unheeded because I’m concerned more with what the opposition is doing instead of where I’m headed.
  • “Don’t wait…go when the ball is hit!” – Don’t hesitate to do what you’ve been told to do. James 4:17 says “…to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Perhaps you’ve been there…I have. God speaks to our spirit and we hesitate, waiting for another word of confirmation. It could be taking a positive step toward something or stopping a sinful habit. Don’t wait…RUN!

Last but not least…have fun! Maybe you’ve not heard that in a long time, but we need to hear it too. So, “Work hard and do your best, but remember to have FUN!”

The Sarcastic Post I Almost Wrote

There are days when my concerns manifest themselves in ways less than God’s best; such was the case recently. It was a sarcastic post I was writing called “How to be a Mediocre Christian”. At the time it seemed like a great idea (to attempt a humorous approach to something heavy on my heart), but then I realized it was more self-righteous than constructive and thankfully it didn’t get finished. 

So here it is without the humor…my heart is heavy from seeing many Christians settle for mediocrity and “easy church”. Like a slow progressive illness, weakness has replaced strength in many Christian circles. Now, with that said, I’m not proposing an easy 1-2-3 solution or book, I’m saying I have more questions than answers so prayer is where I’m going. It’s the place I must go and here’s how I’m praying-maybe you’ll join me: 

  • Not to be one of the mediocre. Most of those in the “mediocre” category would not consider themselves mediocre, so I pray that I’m not deceiving myself in weak areas as James 1:22 talks about.
  • For His help in modeling what God’s best looks like. That may result in taking a step of faith through conversation, a family decision or lifestyle change. I may need to speak more/less and always in a manner that honors Christ to be effective in reaching others.
  • For those in my inner circle to value God’s best. I need them to be growing disciples so we can strengthen and encourage each other; people who love God and His Word more than the world’s treasure and busyness.
  • For those I lead to be teachable. People hear us through the filter of their own life experiences and predispositions. Only the Holy Spirit can break through those barriers to tender their heart for change.
  • For ministers around the world to be courageous. We need men and women who are tenacious in their commitment to Christ while leading. I’ve been blessed to know some like that and I want to continue praying for them, but also for many more to be raised up in this generation.  

Lastly, when you pray for others, let them know. Your encouraging word may be the wind their sail needs. As followers of Christ, we’re in this thing together. Seek His best and be strong in the power of His might! (Eph. 6:10)

The Armor of God Prayer

Father, with the upcoming battles today

being spiritual in nature, please help me to…

Buckle

         14a…truth like a belt around [my] waist,”

Strap on

        “14b…righteousness like armor on [my] chest,”

Lace up boots of

          “15…readiness with the gospel of peace,”

Firmly hold

        16…the shield of faith,

Confidently wear

         “17a …the helmet of salvation,”

Properly use

            “17b …the sword of the Spirit…God’s Word,”

And remember

        18…to pray at all times in the Spirit,”

That You may be honored.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

                                                                                                                                 (Ephesians 6:10-18)

For an easy-to-print PDF version click here

For an easy print PDF version of the teaching worksheet click here

Navigating Life by the Moment

Concerning money, it’s been said if you watch the pennies; the dollars will take care of themselves. I believe it can also be said if we focus on the moments; the days will take care of themselves. I’ve realized I plan life in blocks of time, but I remember life in moments of time. Think about it. We block off time for work, sports, church, movies, etc. but when thinking back, we mostly remember individual moments like a comment, a feeling, or a mental image.

While taking a fresh look at the first two chapters of Luke, I’m seeing how God’s wonderful surprises came along in just that way…moments. At the beginning of the story, Zacharias, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Mary were going along in life and stumbled into incredible moments…divine interruptions if you will. 

There are so many things about God we can point to as consistent (His love, His faithfulness, His grace, His mercy), but exactly how and when He chooses to do things is completely up to Him. I’m one of those people who look for patterns and trends in life, but studying scripture reveals an interesting pattern of “non-pattern”…and that’s because He’s beyond “figuring out”. The problem for me is while I’m attempting to figure things out, daily moments and opportunities flow by and I want to be ready for the moments. Here’s what I’m learning from Luke chapters 1-2: 

  • God is always in total control – From the timing of the events in world history, to the Roman census edict, everything fit together to create a scenario God predicted. Put yourself in Joseph and Mary’s position at the specific moment of arriving in Bethlehem only to learn this was going to be nothing like you’d pictured for the setting our your first child’s birth, much less the Messiah.
  • Considering His work produces faith – When the story spread of Zacharias’ speech returning, the mood went from simple celebration to one of asking “Wow, what big thing is God planning do through this child?” (1:65-66) I sometimes stop at the point of being happy, instead of letting the moment sink in to produce more faith, which results in higher expectations. A mindset looking for those moments will not disappoint.
  • I should speak of His faithfulness – On five separate occasions we see praise given to God for what He was doing (the songs of Elizabeth, Zacharias and Mary, the story told through the hill country of Judea, and the shepherds spreading it in town). They simply told what they knew. They talked of moments where God showed kindness and answered prayer. Speaking about what God has done (and is doing) in our life should be natural and in everyday language. Forget trying to remember “church lingo”, speak of Him as the personal friend He is. 

So what does it take to be ready? Good question. Looking at the stories in Luke doesn’t give a regimen to follow, it gives a model. There was a flexible nature and teachable spirit in those mentioned. What do the moments look like for us? Most of the time they appear very ordinary; like a conversation at the mailbox, settling a disagreement at the auto repair shop or answering an email. It’s the boring stuff…but then again you never know. Pray to be ready. You never know how something you’ve learned (or are continuing to learn) may be just what the “moment” needs. 

Series: Thoughts on Luke –Luke 1:57-2:20

Wondering about God’s Plan

Life often doesn’t make sense. People, circumstances, and timing can lead us to wonder what God is doing. In the early part of the 1st century, the Jewish people still talked of the Messiah’s coming, but generations had come and gone without seeing Him. Eventually the plans were clearly revealed (Luke 1:26-56) and there are some helpful things in the story for us when we start wondering. 

  • First – We’re often tempted to assume He’s going to work in a certain way 

Either by relying on past experiences or just old fashioned pride, I can quickly formulate a plan of action I think God would like. The obvious problem is God doesn’t need my advice to coordinate events in His universe. During the years leading up to Christ’s birth, Jewish leaders had crafted a well-defined picture of what would take place once the Messiah arrived. Their ideas mostly centered on getting rid of Rome and restoring something anchored in the past. So much so that it crippled many people’s ability to see Jesus as the promised One. If I’m not careful I can do the same in my personal life by focusing on a blueprint I’ve drawn, instead of Him. 

  • Second – The scope of our vision is usually limited 

When the angel spoke in verses 32-33, he redefined what the Kingdom would look like. Mary probably didn’t grasp it all at the beginning, but are we ever really able to comprehend what God is doing? 

Consider the magnificent words Gabriel spoke: 

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest;

and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.

And He will reign over the house of David forever,

and of His kingdom there will be no end.” 

Instead of a vision drawn from the inkwell of geo-political unrest, God painted a picture of a glorious kingdom transcending time and space. If I’m not careful, I will let my personal image of God be limited to earthly concepts, instead of biblical ones. His working is so much better and longer-lasting than something I’ve dreamed up. 

  • Third – Strength is drawn from time shared with others who trust Him 

In verses 36-45 we see Mary visiting Elizabeth and sharing a tremendous moment of mutual encouragement. They both had experienced incredible encounters with God by way of His angel Gabriel, but the story was just starting and it would be a unique journey. There’s something about spending time with people of strong faith that affirms our spirit and builds us up. As a man, I need to purposely be among men who spiritually lead their family, who love their wives selflessly and who offer counsel biblically. 

The passage ends with Mary’s song repeating a theme of “He has…” (Luke 1:46-55) What a great thought. When I stop and consider God’s work in my life, I can’t help but think about things like how “He has…shown great mercy to me” and how “He has…always proved faithful!” What about you? Do you have any “He has…” moments…chances are you do.

Series: Thoughts on Luke – Luke 1:26-56

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