Going Through the ‘Paces’ [v39]

MAY 2002

GREETINGS — It was probably the most exciting conclusion to a World Series in baseball history. It was 1924—Washington vs. New York. The teams had been evenly matched throughout the year. The series was tied at 3 and the seventh game was being played in Washington to decide the championship.

That game was also well balanced and was tied at 2 going into the ninth inning. New York was convincingly retired 1-2-3. The home team now had a chance to pull this one out.

The first batter struck out as did the second. Ninth inning, two-outs and up comes Goose Goslin. He swings at the first pitch…strike one. The next pitch zips right by him … strike two . You can’t get down to any sharper edge then this. The home team crowd is silent. The pitcher winds up and delivers a fastball. Goslin steps into it and sends it into left center field. The crowd rises up and starts to scream… it’s going to be a home run!

But it hits just 6 inches below the top of the fence and bounces back into the field. The left fielder scoops up the ball and rifles it to the shortstop. By this time the crowd has somewhat diminished its screaming as Goslin slows to come into third base standing up .

The third base coach notices that New York is not awake and determines that this would be the best opportunity to win the game, motions Goslin to go home—and the crowd goes wild! Goslin takes off like a rocket. The shortstop sees what is happening, whirls around and throws the ball toward the catcher. Goslin leaps and slides into home…just before the catcher catches the ball

The crowd goes absolutely wild! Washington has won the World Series! But when the dust settles around home plate the umpire yells “You’re out!” Pandemonium ensues. It seems as if the crowd is going to rush the field and strangle the umpire. Everyone could see that he was safe…he beat the ball there.

So the umpire, probably fearing for his life, called a meeting of the other umpires. There was not a sound from anybody in that great packed audience. After which seemed an eternity, the home plate umpire walked over to a microphone and said, ” Ladies and gentleman…the runner at home is out…having failed to touch first base.” Mudville hath no gloom, even when the mighty Casey struck out, to compare to the dark cloud that settled on Washington that day.

This story is a beautiful and yet tragic analogy of what is happening to the vast millions of church members in America today. Oh, they’ve made their way around the bases, it would seem, and some of them are getting very close to home plate.

All of us will die one day or another—and some think that they will ‘score’…that there will be cheering and a great ‘reception’ for them. But many of them are going to hear the words of the “Great Umpire” of life saying, “You’re out!…You never touched ‘first base’.

There have been members of a church for over 50 years that have never gotten to first base in terms of “true” religion. Some have never even really begun in the spirit of God. They have never been born anew.

Somehow they thought they could ‘skip’ that base, and go one enjoying the church…be baptized…be confirmed…participate in all the various ‘forms’ of religion and make their way “around the infield of life” and then head for “home” and the great welcome to follow.

But they will hear the Great Umpire say,  “Depart from me, I never knew you.” [Matthew 7:23] The apostle Paul said that these people have a ‘form’ of religion but deny the power thereof. He goes on to say that this is going to be a problem, particularly in the latter days.

Now, I nor anyone else knows when the end of the world is going to come—but for each one of us it will ‘end’ when we breath our last. But Paul might be able to give us some insight by the ‘catalog’ of 19 sins that will be prevalent in the last days…with the most prominent one being that men will be “lovers of their own selves.” [2 Timothy 3:2]

That’s interesting to me. If there is a time, throughout history, that people are lovers of themselves, that is today! Taking a look at the titles of the best seller list shows this…”How to Assert Yourself”…”Honoring the Self”…”Learning to Love Yourself”…The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense”…Looking Out for Number One”…”Winning Through Intimidation”…”How to Get What You Really Want”…the list goes on.

But, the interesting thing is that Paul is not talking about the “pagans,” he is talking directly to the Christians…to the ‘church’. So is it today, that in some churches, the chief of these vices has become a “virtue.” Paul goes on to say that these people do not love God, but they love pleasure more than themselves. We see this in our own times…covetousness; blasphemy; disobedience of authority; unthankfulness; an age of ‘unnatural’ affections; false accusations; despising those that do good—and these are descriptions of those that are in the ‘pale’ of the church. They are ‘proud’ to have the “form” of godliness, but know not that they have “missed the base.”

The form of godliness is, of course, the outward appearance that Christian church takes—the visible church with all its sacraments, membership, participation in worship, fellowship, Bible study, prayer meetings, and any of the multitude of things that the church is involved in doing. Let me say, at this point, that all these are important, but in and of themselves are not the end all—and will not ‘substitute’ for the “power” of godliness.

So, what is this “power” of godliness that Paul is talking about—without which church people have no hope! He emphasizes that this power is GOD…nothing else! He is warning that you can have religion without the Father; Christianity without Christ; and worship without the Spirit.

Let me encourage all of us to honestly determine if we have God in our life—or do we simply have the ‘shell’ of religion. The power of God is the only thing that can save you! Religion cannot save you. The church cannot save you. Baptism cannot save you. Your parents cannot save you. Even your great grandfather, who was a minister, cannot save you. Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s wife, aptly put it that, “God has no grandchildren.” All of us must come to know God directly—and be born anew by His Spirit.

All throughout the Bible God warns us about having just the “form” of religion and that the church can be a ‘dangerous’ place to be—it stills the clamor of our conscience within—it’s something we are ‘supposed’ to do. Something that makes us ‘feel’ better. It also silences the clamor from ‘without’ by silencing the clamor of the people around us. We do it to “keep the peace.” These people are doing ‘religion’ for the wrong reasons—they have never experienced the life transforming power of Christ in their hearts.

My friend, you are in grave danger—and the Bible emphasizes this. Let us all examine ourselves to see if we have a personal “relationship” with God—if Christ really dwells inside us. Jesus said to the church of Sardis, that thou has the name of Christian that thou livest, but art dead!  And to the Laodiceans that thou are neither hot nor cold but luke warm and I shall ‘spew’ them out of my mouth. He also said in the Sermon on the Mount that “many will say unto me in that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” [Matthew 7:22] But He will say to those that outwardly “professed” and went “through the motions” that He “never knew you.”—they never even got to first base!

Can you imagine hearing those words?  What a shock…what a surprise! But then astonishment will turn to horror when they are “bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness….with wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth”—they find that they are OUT AT HOME PLATE!

It is all too easy to compare ourselves with other church members and think we are doing OK. But God asks us to have more than just a form of godliness—we must repent and come to God ourselves. Having the outward form without the inward power one will go through all the ‘rituals’ of religion but it will be a burden—to “grin and bear it.”

Worship service becomes boring and prayer becomes intolerable. The Bible becomes as dry as dust, and we read it infrequently—and if we do it daily, it is ‘mechanical’—since we must do this to assuage the conscience within.

But for the one that ‘know’ God and have found the power of this relationship, it is more like what the Psalmist David described, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. [Psalm 42:1]

I urge all of us to examine our hearts to determine if we really have a hunger and longing to know God more intimately. I am reminded that those who “seek God will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart.” [Jeremiah 29:13]

My we all fully surrender our hearts and minds unto Christ—that we want our hearts to be changed and that we want the transforming ‘power’ of an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father.

[Excerpts from D. James Kennedy]

Blessings….
Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v39) for MAY 2002
(NOTE: Please send your ‘thoughts’ to me at: mbesh@ameritech.net)

I am glad to organize and distribute more ‘stuff’ if y’all send it to me… Thank you’s to:

Bonnie Parkinson

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LIFE SUCCESS – YOU CAN’T STEAL FIRST
Life’s like baseball…you must go one base at a time if you want to get home—and associate yourself with those who can help move you along.

I’m not sure what the difference is between a stepping stone and a stumbling block–I’m never sure which one is higher. Do you have to step higher for the ‘stepping stone’ or is the ‘stumbling block’ there because you are not willing to raise your foot up and go for things you need to do. Step high–reach to be the best.  [Johnny Bench]

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ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S MOTHER: “Again with the stovepipe hat, Abe? Can’t you just wear a baseball cap like the other kids?”

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THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM MY CHILDREN
– Baseballs make marks on ceilings.
– You shouldn’t throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on.
– When using the ceiling fan as a bat you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit.
– A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.
– The glass in windows (even double pane) doesn’t stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.

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HOMERUNS
At a fund-raising dinner for a Brooklyn school that caters to learning-disabled children, the father of one child was expected to give a speech extolling the dedicated staff’s work. Instead his opening remarks shocked the crowd of parents and teachers. He cried out: “My son goes to this
school, which teaches that everything God does is done with perfection. But where is the perfection in my son Shaya? My child cannot understand things as other children do. So tell me where is God’s perfection?”

The audience, shocked by the man’s anguished question, hushed. A few people coughed nervously as the father continued: “I believe that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection He seeks is in the way people react.” The father then told about the afternoon he and Shaya walked past a park where some boys Shaya knew were playing baseball. Shaya asked, “Do you think they will let me play?”

The father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. Nevertheless, Shaya’s father understood that if his son were to be chosen to play it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging. So the father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shaya could play.

The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands. “We’re losing by six runs, and the game is in the eighth inning,” he told the father. “I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning.”  Shaya’s father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. A team member told Shaya to put on a glove and go out to play short center field.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya’s team scored again and now, with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base, Shaya was up to bat.

Would the team actually take a chance on Shaya to bat home the winning run? Everyone knew it was all but impossible because Shaya didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it.

Yet as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shaya should at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya’s teammates came up to Shaya so together they could hold the bat and face the pitcher.

Again the pitcher took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly. As the pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung at the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman. Everyone started yelling, “Shaya, run to first! Run to first!”

Never in his life had Shaya run to first. So now he scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, still running. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher’s intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman’s head. Everyone yelled: “Run to second! Run to second!” Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. Just as Shaya reached second base, the opposing shortstop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, “Run to third.” As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming: “Shaya, run home!” Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate, and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders.  They made Shaya their hero, as he had just hit a grand slam and won the game for his team.

“That day,” said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, “those 18 boys reached their level of God’s perfection.”

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DISCOURAGED?
As I was driving home from work one day, I stopped to watch a local little
League baseball game that was being played in a park near my home. As I sat down behind the bench on the first-baseline, I asked one of the boys what the score was. “We’re behind 14 to nothing,” he answered with a smile. Really,” I said. “I have to say you don’t look very discouraged.”  “Discouraged?” the boy asked with a puzzled look on his face. “Why should we be discouraged?  We haven’t been up to bat yet.”

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WHOSE HANDS?
A basketball in my hands is worth about $19.
A basketball in Michael Jordan’s hands is worth about $33 million.
It depends whose hands it’s in.

A baseball in my hands is worth about $6.
A baseball in Mark McGuire’s hands is worth $19 million.
It depends whose hands it’s in.

A tennis racket is useless in my hands.
A tennis racket in Pete Sampras’ hands is a Wimbledon Championship.
It depends whose hands it’s in.

A rod in my hands will keep away a wild animal.
A rod in Moses’ hands will part the mighty sea.
It depends whose hands it’s in.

A sling shot in my hands is a kid’s toy.
A sling shot in David’s hand is a mighty weapon.
It depends whose hands it’s in.

Two fish & 5 loaves of bread in my hands is a couple of fish sandwiches.
Two fish & 5 loaves of bread in God’s hands will feed thousands.
It depends whose hands it’s in.

Nails in my hands might produce a birdhouse.
Nails in Jesus Christ’s hands will produce salvation for the entire world. It depends whose hands it’s in.

As you see now it depends whose hands it’s in. So put your concerns, your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, your families and your relationships in God’s hands because — It depends whose hands it’s in.
[Received from Bonnie Parkinson]

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DEEP THOUGHT:
Don’t argue with your sister when she has a baseball bat in her hands.
[Mark Besh]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!

Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” [2 Peter 1:3-11]

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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