Bot9 - Baptism


Early in my walk with Christ I was influenced by Erwin McManus’s The Barbarian Way. John the Baptist is one of the focal points of that book and it was his example of a wild faith, one of an outsider living in the wilderness eating locusts, impacted my heart and moved me out of my comfort zone. That journey has continued and continues to move me into places where I never expected to be standing.

This past spring, we experienced something incredible. After seeing how receptive the baseball team we were coaching was to things driven by the Spirit, leading their own Bible study and going deep into relationship with one another, we offered the opportunity for baptism on the baseball field. Eight of the players made an outward expression to a heart’s commitment to Christ that day. But the story doesn’t end there.

We had an alum in attendance that day. He told us later that he was planning on getting baptized during the summer at some point, and he decided to let us baptize him that day. He wanted to join his former teammates in the moment. Did the story end there? No. Another alum reached out and asked us to baptize him in the same way. And then another. And then a former assistant coach asked us to baptize him with his family present. This season of time is one that I will look back on in amazement.

But I’d rather this be just the beginning of spiritual momentum in the baseball world. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Through Complete Game Ministries, we are seeking to make disciples of Christ in the “nation” of baseball. This year, we’ve experienced fruit in the harvest field in the form of baptisms. Join us in continuing to work the spiritual soil of the baseball world so more and more players, coaches, and parents can be brought into the family of faith. Incorporate Christ and His teachings in everything you do on and off the field, and maybe you’ll also experience the joy of bringing a player, a teammate, or a coach from death to life through baptism!

Bot9 - All Stars


Major League Baseball takes a break after this weekend’s series in an event often referred to as the “Midsummer Classic” - the All-Star Game. Growing up, I remember hearing about three All-Star moments that stood the test of time: Ted Williams and his walk-off home run to win the 1941 All-Star GamePete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse (effectively ending Fosse’s career), and Reggie Jackson blasting a home run out of old Tiger Stadium in 1971. These moments kept me glued to the screen during every All-Star Game as I grew up, waiting to witness one of those historic moments.

Probably my favorite moment came in 1989 when Bo Jackson crushed an unbelievable shot off of Rick Reuschel from the leadoff spot. It captured the greatness of the event in a single moment - the anticipation of two players at the top of their games, an opportunity to witness next-level greatness, and a moment that would forever be etched in your memory.

I’m kind of sad that the Home Run Derby captures more attention than the game itself today. There’s so much less anticipation around the game and patiently waiting for a generational moment. Oh well, forgive my old man digression for just a second there.

As the event approaches, it’s given me pause to think about being a spiritual all-star. Like becoming an All-Star in Major League Baseball, it takes time and a journey. Nothing about that work is easy and the amount of time it takes to perfect one’s spiritual walk takes, well, a lifetime. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the habits and practices necessary to get to that level spiritually. None of them sound difficult (prayer, reading the Bible, loving others well), but they are all difficult to practice consistently.

In the midst of difficulty, both in the moment and over the course of days of trial, it seems to me that one of the most important practices is that of embedding God’s wisdom on your heart. Scripture reading and memorization is key to wiring your brain to lean in God during difficulty instead of your own wisdom.

Life represents a long and difficult road, especially when you’re trying to become a spiritual all-star. The best part about such a pursuit is that it’s open to every one of us, while the MLB All-Star Game will only be attainable by a select few. Join me and so many others in that pursuit and encourage others in their journey!

Bot9 - The American Journey


As we head into the Independence Day holiday this week, I wanted to reflect on this idea of the transformational journey as it applies to our country. For those of us who believe in Jesus Christ and a God who redeems, it’s important for us to maintain the perspective of redemption in the context of our country, its history, and its future.

Far too often we, as human beings, tend to believe that everything’s going downhill. Some may be quick to use the term “going to hell in a hand basket.” While it may feel that way, it’s important for us to remember God’s redemptive power. No matter how bad the event feels to you, God can, and will, redeem it.

Our country is a part of God’s created world. As such, we are a part of His redemptive plan. Instead of feeling that slide into a pit when something negative happens, in the grand scheme of things, it will be a part of redemption. It will be redeemed. It may be good for all of us to remind ourselves by saying, “This, too, will be redeemed.”

It’s probably easier for us to throw a ball on the mound and bounce back with a strike, or strike out and come back with a double in the next at bat. We feel a sense of control over events in the game of baseball. When it comes to national affairs or the effects of history, we often feel a sincere lack of control. The games we play are so much simpler in this regard. Remembering that this, too, will be redeemed is a powerful perspective to grab from our great game.

Our God is a God of freedom, not of bondage. A perspective of freedom and redemption leads us into the journey of transformation, both personally and for the country. How can this perspective lead you to freedom and out of bondage?

Bot9 - Solomon and the Journey


Solomon was one of the wisest men who ever lived. He is credited with writing three books of the Bible - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. The stories of his wisdom transcend faith traditions as he is respected beyond Jews and Christians. However, his life serves as more of a cautionary tale for those of us who want to skip the transformational journey and jump right into prosperity.

Solomon is the son of David and has an encounter with God early in his life. As he becomes king of Israel, Solomon prays to God for wisdom, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:9, ESV) Not only does he receive wisdom, God gives Solomon incredible favor:

And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days. (1 Kings 3:11-14 ESV)

God does bless Solomon beyond measure. One estimate puts the current value of Solomon’s riches at $2.1 trillion - double that of the combined estimates of John D. Rockerfeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Ford (take that “men who built America”). However, Solomon’s life doesn’t end well. He turns his heart from God, and worships at the feet of the idols brought to him by his 1,000 wives. He’s removed from the throne by God. How could this happen?

Solomon’s father, David, walked an incredible journey with God. So incredible was David’s journey that he is still known as a man after God’s own heart. David’s life is marked by many ups and downs, and his life is marked by a journey of transformation. Solomon, however, was granted wisdom by God without a journey and then given even more. His prayer was wise and we are the beneficiaries of that prayer. However, Solomon’s life ends without a completed journey of transformation, one where his heart is clearly drawn back to the Lord.

Why does this matter? Our relationship with God is cemented during a transformational journey. In those moments of incredible difficulty where wisdom is earned, we have the opportunity to align our hearts with our loving God forever. Solomon was granted wisdom and prosperity, the level of which every man dreams. His prayer ended up circumventing the opportunity for lifelong relationship with God and his heart is drawn away late in life. May we all embrace the struggles on and off the baseball field so that our relationship with the Lord never drifts as Solomon’s did. Avoid prayers of early prosperity as they may not bear the long-term fruit God desires for each of us.

Bot9 - The Transformation of Job


“'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’” - Job 42:4

In this exploration of the transformational journey both in film and in my own life, I’ve also looked into God’s Word to see if this pattern holds true. I mean, at the end of the day, does anyone care if Roy Hobbs or other characters from the imaginations of men go through fictional transformation? It takes some work to get our minds and hearts to caring about commonality from fiction. But to see that same pattern of transformation in the lives of men and women in the Bible means something more. It captures our spirit differently.

Take Job, for example. I’ve been studying the wisdom books using the Read Scripture app and videos (watch this video outlining the book of Job to gain some context), and this transformational journey works itself out in Job’s life as well.

We see Job in his Known World (Job 1:1-5) - he is blameless and upright, a picture of righteousness. We learn about his family and read a list of all of his possessions. Because of the deal Satan strikes with God, Job experiences a Fork in the Road when Satan takes his property and his children. Job experiences great loss. Things get progressively worse until Job reaches his No Turning Back moment when his wife tells him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9).

Job’s Trials & Temptations, like so many of ours, are more spiritual than physical. Job has a Community around him including three friends (Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite - Job 2:11-13) who dialogue with him about the nature of God, justice, and all that has occurred. Late in this dialogue, Job and his friends hear from Elihu (Job 32) for a fresh perspective. Job’s Greatest Obstacle occurs as he presents his final defense and appeal, asking for and encountering God (Job 38). 

After hearing directly from God, Job achieves Transformation and Triumph. His Transformation is represented in his confession and repentance, recognizing his place in creation. The Triumph for Job is spiritual, but it’s also as the Lord restores Job’s fortunes (Job 42:10-17).

Ultimately, Job, and all of man, is called to trust God’s wisdom in the good and the difficult times. When we do, we are restored to fresh levels of relationship with God and man. Job’s Wisdom to Share may be best represented in his confession and repentance below (Job 42:1-6). Now that most high school and college seasons are over for the summer, may we all draw close to the Lord and embrace His wisdom over our own.

Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that you can do all things,
    and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

Bot9 - Wisdom to Share


“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” - James 1:5

This verse seems so simple. Don’t have wisdom? Ask God for it and He’ll give it to you. The problem is that this process is far from simple. Gaining wisdom is a process.

I remember my early classes studying journalism. In a lead you have to answer the 5 Ws and the H - Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. If James 1:5 is your lead, we can answer some of those questions clearly:

Who? You and God.
What? Wisdom.
Why? You lack it. God will give it if you ask because He is grace.

What questions aren’t answered? When, Where, and How. Pretty big questions to leave unanswered and it seems that wisdom is hard to come by. It’s not for the instant-gratification crowd. Wisdom isn’t just provided for you - it’s found and earned through a journey. That’s the answer to How. When and Where occur during and after the journey, most often from angles you never expected.

I wonder what wisdom Roy Hobbs would share after his baseball journey. He’s back on the farm, and his life has settled down. As he gazes into his glove, what is he thinking? How much as he learned, what has he learned, and what would he share with us? While we can only guess at those answers, this much I do know - he went through a lot to earn his wisdom.

Speaking from recent experience, I believe that a journey comes after praying for wisdom. While this may cause hesitation for some, a journey provided by God is well worth any difficulty. Pray for wisdom, go on a journey, and prepare to grow immensely. After your journey, don’t hold that wisdom for yourself. It’s meant to be shared.

Bot9 - Transformation


When the Lord puts us through a transformational journey, the point of the journey is our transformation. A simple definition of transformation is a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance. God is trying to change us and transform us for our good. Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

The point of the journey is our transformation. Many traditions and much of postmodern literature focuses on the idea that “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end” (quote from Ursula K. Le Guin but is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway). What does this mean and is it true?

In this idea, the journey becomes paramount over the destination. In the film version of The Natural, Roy Hobbs reaches ultimate transformation in his journey back home to the farm. He’s playing catch with his son and his wife is by his side. His life has come full circle. We look at Hobbs with different eyes because we have witnessed every part of his journey. However, we don’t know all that has happened inside of Hobbs’ heart.

Through the filter of the Christian life, we know that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, the journey of the heart towards Christ is largely an internal journey. It’s not always apparent that the old has gone and the new has come by outward appearance. We change internally, but others still recognize us as the same.

This presents a tremendous challenge to everyone who has been on a transformational journey. Not only must we allow Christ to change our hearts, we must be witness to that change by exhibiting different outward actions. I wonder if this is God somehow weaving these two verses together in the perception of others:

Romans 12:2 - “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Philippians 3:20-21 - “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

We are transformed by the renewal of our minds (the internal journey), we can discern the will of God which affects our outward actions, and Christ transforms our body in a way that allows others to witness transformation. As we are all on a journey, it seems that we have the opportunity to be filled with grace towards everyone as we hope they will be filled with grace towards us in our own process. Love your own process, but love the process God has others on as well!

Bot9 - Triumph


The word "triumph" fits when a person or character overcomes their greatest obstacle. Triumph only works as it applies to a great victory or achievement. It comes at the end of a long journey and it doesn't come easily. Triumph doesn't fit anything that applies to instant gratification. It's a word that hints at a great spiritual overcoming.

The triumphant moment is worthy of horns blaring or fireworks falling on the field, as they did at the conclusion of The Natural. The word once referred to how a victorious general would be greeted back home in Ancient Rome. Crowds cheering, music playing, and people celebrating. These are the signs of a triumph.

One of my favorite moments of triumph happened in the dugout of the 2016 state championship at Valor Christian. We were up 9-5 going into the bottom of the seventh, but those last three outs were far from easy. Our opponent, Pueblo West, was a gritty, very competitive group. They had beaten us in the double elimination tournament the weekend before. With one out and a runner on first, a potential double play ball bounced oddly over our shortstop's head. Then with two outs, the hitter hit a ball to our pitcher's backhand. While the ball hit his glove and bounced close enough for an easy play at first base, that particular pitcher had experienced the "yips" throwing to first base throughout the spring. He bounced the ball to our first baseman, who made a great play to keep the ball in front of him (video would show that he caught the ball for an out, but whatever), the runner was called safe and a run scored. The score was now 9-6 with their most powerful hitter coming to the plate.

It was here that the sounds of triumph began. First, I took a mound visit to check on the guys. Let's just say that the first baseman made a joke, the team laughed, and I felt good about where they were mentally. But my tension was still high. That tightness in my belly kept growing as I went down the dugout steps. As I turned to watch the action, a song came to my ear - Chris Tomlin's "Good, Good Father." It wasn't actually playing, but I heard a song and I started quietly singing along. Soon after the chorus began, the opposing hitter blasted a line drive that landed in our right fielder's glove. The celebration was on and the triumph was complete.

While at the end of the day this is just winning a baseball game, it's a symbol of being victorious after a long journey. It's a reminder that keeps me believing that I can triumph again. I hope our Bot9 readers have those same reminders as they walk with the Lord through their journeys. They are valuable for more than just the victory.

Bot9 - The Greatest Obstacle


The highest mountain.

The darkest tunnel.

The deepest abyss.

The greatest obstacle of any character or person is the climax of the journey, the moment of desperation, that all-in moment. It’s the moment when we ask “Will he survive this?” or “Will he emerge victorious?” Hollywood has desensitized us to this, to some extent by making every character win in the end, but more on that in a minute.

This is the moment in the journey that has to be so bleak that we (the audience or those witnessing it) are just not sure if the character or person is going to succeed or even survive. The ultimate example of this is Easter - Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Jesus was dead. The Scripture makes this clear in John 19:34 when the solider pierces Jesus’s side and blood and water comes from the wound. His disciples are downtrodden and all seems lost.

But Jesus emerges from the tomb. He is raised from the dead and overcomes the ultimate. Hallelujah!

On the baseball field, this journey is occurring on some level throughout a season for every player. Everyone faces a series of difficulties, often coming to a head late in the season. Sometimes it even looks like Roy Hobbs from The Natural. His bat has been broken, his weapon vanquished. He’s bleeding from the side, the wound he suffered earlier in his journey (those wounds look different for every player, but they’re always there). There’s a young fireballer on the mound looking to grab the mantle of fame. It’s a beautiful picture of a climactic moment on a baseball field, and we see it all of the time.

Now, and here’s a spoiler alert of all spoiler alerts, the best part of The Natural is largely unknown. While Hobbs succeeds in overcoming his greatest obstacle in the movie, he fails in the book. Can you believe that? What an incredible juxtaposition of the same character! The filmmakers paint the classic picture of Hollywood success, while the author (Bernard Malamud) provides a very human picture of what so many experience in baseball. The amazing thing is that both stories work.

In the words of another wise baseball sage, “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And sometimes it rains.” This is true in the game of baseball and in some of the great journeys of life. Thankfully, at the end of all of it, for those who acknowledge Christ as Lord, we know that through Jesus’s resurrection that we will all share eternal life with Him. That represents the ultimate journey for all of us.