Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 16, 2011

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."   Hebrews 11:6

Did you ever have someone in your life who was hard to please? No matter how hard you tried or what you did you found you could never please them? That is pretty miserable isn't it?

God doesn't want you miserable and He is not hard to please. In fact, He makes it clear what it takes to please Him. When you come to Him believing that "He is" or "He exists" He is pleased.

When you think about it, why would you come to someone who doesn't exist or whose existence you doubt? What is the point in that?

God does, indeed, exist! He always has! He always will. There will never be a time He doesn't exist. He exists at all times in all places with all power and forever!

God can be fully present here in Fredericksburg, VA and be fully present with you at the same time!

In fact, when God identified Himself to Moses He named Himself as "I am". Or, you could also say "I exist".

So, when you come to God and you believe that He exists as the "I am" - the fully present, fully powerful, and fully perfectly personal eternal Being - He is perfectly pleased!

Are you fully persuaded that "He is" when you seek Him? If so, He is fully pleased!

May 15, 2011

For well over a century baseball has been recognized as our “national past time”. It has become part of the fiber of our culture. I think there are good reasons why that is true:

1) Camaraderie:

Team mates or Fans enjoy being part of a team and working together to get wins.

2) Competition:

Individuals, pitcher vs batter, etc. Team pulling together for victory.

3) Continuity:

Dad’s Play And Want Sons to Play

4) Cards & Computers:

Baseball Cards & Fantasy Baseball

5) Coverage:

Newspapers, Magazines, Internet, TV and Radio

If Jesus was around today doing His teaching and preaching, He would likely refer to baseball in a parable or a story since it is such a touch point in our culture.

Rick Warren's popular book The Purpose Driven Life uses the simple illustration of a baseball diamond to capture the idea that spiritual progress is a journey. Thousands of churches have adopted and adapted this "Life Development Process." It looks like this:

First base or Class 101: Committed to membership - knowing Christ

Second base or Class 201: Committed to maturity - growing in Christ

Third base or Class 301: Committed to ministry - serving Christ

Home plate or Class 401: Committed to missions - sharing Christ

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” II Timothy 4:7-8

If you were going to pose these verses in baseball terms, you could say the Great Apostle had rounded third and was headed for home. He is about to score and he is saying, “I have touched all the bases!”

Comparing Baseball to Faith – what are the bases we need to touch in order to get home to Heaven?

I. First Base - Salvation

Jesus replied, "I tell you for certain that you must be born from above before you can see God's kingdom!" John 3:3

The object in baseball, like all competitive sports, is to score – and to score more than the other team. A score in baseball is called a “run”. There is a progression that must happen in order to score a run in baseball. You MUST go through that progression every time for the run to count – 1st Base, 2nd Base, 3rd Base and then Home. You can reserve than progression nor can you shortcut it.

The chance to score a run begins when a batter reaches first base. You do that by getting a walk, a hit or on an error. You cannot get home if you don’t get to first

A major league baseball player can become a multi-millionaire if he can bat .300. To do that he must get on base just three times in ten at-bats. Now, granted, against major league pitching with major leaguers in playing defense that is no small feat.

But 100% of the players who score a run have to get to first base. You can’t score at first base but neither can you score without it!

The bad news in the Christian life is, you can’t get to first base on your own. You will strike out in sin.

The good news is you can have a pinch hitter, Jesus Christ. He got you a hit at the cross, when He died for your sins. You get a hit when you step out of the batters box and hand the bat to HIM.
You can’t get to home and score unless you get on first base. You can’t get on first base unless you get a hit. You can’t get a hit unless you let Jesus pinch-hit for you!

II. Second Base – Spiritual Growth - Romans 6:4 & II Peter 3:18

“When we were baptized, we died and were buried with Christ. We were baptized, so that we would live a new life, as Christ was raised to life by the glory of God the Father.” Romans 6:4

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!” Amen. II Peter 3:18

In real baseball it is possible to get a two base hit or a double and go from the batter’s box around first base and end on second base.

However, in the Christian faith there is a process that begins at first and requires you to move to second. In the faith, second base represents spiritual growth.

As II Peter 3:18 tells us, spiritual growth results from increasing in grace and in knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since Christianity is a relationship, growth results from learning to obey God, learning to study the Bible, learning to pray, learning to live in fellowship and learning to worship.

When you know that you want to get from first to second it is important to get a lead off of first base. In this context, the way to get a lead off first base is baptism. Baptism is commanded of every believer and is a public witness of a personal spiritual decision to follow Christ. Baptism symbolizes and signifies the great doctrines of the Church – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Also, if you want to get to second base another important thing needs to happen along the base path from first to second – church membership. In some traditions baptism IS the entry into membership of that local church. It is very important to affiliate yourself with a local church. That is where ministry and worship and spiritual growth happen.

You can’t score from first base. You have to round second to get to home. And second base represents spiritual growth as evidenced in baptism and church membership.

Perhaps you are thinking, “Brad, it sounds like you are saying that being saved is not enough to get you to Heaven. Is that right? It sounds like you are saying that baptism and church membership are equally as important as salvation.”

Baptism and church membership are no substitute for salvation. But they are evidence that you have been saved. Or, if you are unwilling to submit to baptism or church membership, maybe you haven’t have a real spiritual transformation.

III. Third Base - Serving - Eph. 2:8-9

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”

God Created Adam to Serve

God Called Disciples to Serve

God Commissioned Church to Serve

Imagine the most important organization in the world - the Church - is to be run by volunteers servants!

 IV. Home Plate – Scoring – II Timothy 4:7-8

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

To get home you must keep running! You can run from first to third all day long but you don’t score until you cross home plate.

None of us should make it home without helping others get there!

In 1924 the World Series between the New York Giants and the Washington Senators was tied after six games. Griffith stadium in Washington was packed for the final game on October 10, 1924. They came to the ninth inning with the game score tied at three runs each.

New York was put down in order and Washington came to bat. The home team fans screamed for one lone run, which would win the series and the world championship. The first two men made outs and it looked like extra innings. Then a player named Leon “Goose” Goslin came to the plate. Two strikes were called and then two balls. The crowd was watching every pitch. On the fifth pitch, Goslin stepped into the ball and slammed it to left center field. The crowd became delirious; it looked like a home run, but it hit inches below the top of the wall and fell back into the field of play.
Goslin was slowing down for a triple when the third base coach waved him on to try for an in-park home run. The short stop took the peg from left center, and fired the ball to the catcher. Goslin slid into home in a cloud of dust, seemingly a split second before the tag. The catcher followed the routine of throwing the ball around the bases, just in case, while waiting for the umpire to make the call. The umpire made a delayed call, consulting the other umpires, and then cried, “You’re out!”

Washington player/manager, Bucky Harris, along with his team and fans, rushed onto the field, protesting the call. The umpire secured order, and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, the batter is out because he didn’t touch first base!”

If you want to make it home and score you have to touch 'em all! And if you want to get home to Heaven and bring some others along with you - you've got to touch all the bases! Make sure you touch 'em all!