Keith Wahl

Exodus 19-40: A Baseball Guy's Bible Guide

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I hope the first part of Exodus was challenging for you personally. It was for me. Handling threats to your territory, working on a hardened heart, and accepting that your journey is like that of Israel’s are three big themes speaking to our heart’s condition. As we move into the second half of Exodus, we get an even closer look into God’s heart and our own.

This week we’ll explore three key ideas from Exodus 19-40 and help bring them to the baseball field. Again, I am sure you know the stories, but take some time to read Exodus 19-40 and watch the Bible Project’s video outlining the framework of Exodus 19-40 as well (https://thebibleproject.com/explore/exodus-19-40/) as we dive into this week’s “Baseball Guy’s Bible Guide.”

Due up in the Bottom of the Ninth:
- Set Apart
- Moses’ Intercession
- The Tabernacle

Set Apart

Some guys are just set apart. Jason Varitek is one of those guys. The first time I got to see Tek play was in my first visit to Omaha for the College World Series in 1994. He led his Georgia Tech team, along with future Red Sox teammate Nomar Garciaparra, to a 2-0 victory over Cal State Fullerton on a sunny day at old Rosenblatt Stadium. Tek did so many things that stood out that day and his career is one of extraordinary achievement. Not only did he play in the College World Series, but he also played in the Little League World Series, Major League World Series, the Olympics, and the World Baseball Classic. That’s a career set apart.

This idea of being set apart is what God entrusts the Jewish people with through the story of Exodus. Direct communion with God was initially lost in the Garden, but through God’s promise to Abraham He will again give access to His presence through the Israelites. God gives these people a whole set of laws and they will become the people who will represent God to the nations of the world. Obeying the laws is going to be difficult, but if anyone can do it, it’s these people.

Well, that is before Moses takes too long on top of the mountain.

Moses’ Intercession

Exodus 32, 33, and 34 outlines how Moses stands up for the people and intercedes with God for their good. God interrupts His meeting with Moses and tells him to go down because the people have made an idol, the Golden Calf. Moses finds the people worshiping the Calf after agreeing to the covenant with God and he’s angry. He destroys the tablets and continues talking with God on behalf of the people.

Moses reminds God of His covenant with Abraham and we get an incredible picture of our God. God chooses faithfulness in spite of His grief and pain thanks, in part, to the intercession of Moses. God knows what this broken promise will cost Him, but He will abound in covenant faithfulness. He will keep His promise. The Golden Calf becomes an opportunity for Moses to stand up for his people.

This is the role of leaders. It’s to intercede for all teammates and remind them of what is good. It is to encourage mercy and grace. The evildoers will not go unpunished, but that punishment might look different that we might imagine. Leaders don’t need to enact the heavy hand of justice, but they know time will show what is good and right. Sometimes we need a physical manifestation of this goodness beyond just a person and that’s what brings us to the Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle

Exodus ends with the Tabernacle being constructed. This sacred tent and all of the detail of the construction of the sanctuary for God is so important. It is the temple where God can be among His people and echoes back to the Garden of Eden when God and Israel can live in peace. It becomes the model for the Temple in Jerusalem later and also gives us a picture of Christ dwelling in each of us as temples designed for the Holy Spirit to live.

But after all of effort that went into the construction of the Tabernacle, Moses can’t enter into God’s presence because of Israel’s sin. The relationship has been damaged, and this leads us into Leviticus and the law next time.

This picture of Moses not being able to enter brought me back to one of my earliest baseball memories. I was supposed to see my first live baseball game in Kansas City in 1981. Imagine that. I’m 7 years old and we’re heading on a road trip so I can see the defending American League champions play at Royals Stadium. The fountains. George Brett. Dan Quisenberry. Frank White. Willie Wilson. My dad had been planning this trip around his work schedule and we were on our way.

But there was a problem. The 1981 season was shortened by a strike. All of that anticipation I had of going into the stadium to see my first game became a whole different reality. I remember walking around the stadium only able to peer through a chainlink fence. I distinctly recall standing behind left field at a vast emptiness. The colored seats, a blank scoreboard, no fountains. A boundary between me and what should have been a much different memory.

I did get to see my first game a year later in Anaheim between the Angels and Tigers, but the picture here is an important one. Moses builds the Tabernacle with his people, but is unable to enter because of the damaged relationship (Exodus 40:34-35). He goes through all of this effort to commune with God, and is unable to enter in the same way I was unable to enter Royals Stadium in 1981. That’s one layer of the story.

But there’s another layer. Instead of picturing Moses on the outside unable to enter, imagine God being on the outside of our heart because of our departure from His ways. He wants nothing more than to be on the inside of that temple enjoying a game with you and He’s been making ways for us all to have that level of communion with us from the beginning of time. The picture of God as a loving Father is an important one, but I wonder if we’d benefit from seeing God as a young boy hoping to see His first ballgame, too.

Exodus 1-18: A Baseball Guy's Bible Guide

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As we move from Genesis and into Exodus, I will continue to build on the themes from the Bible and bring them into the context of baseball. Part of the point of the Word is to examine the story but also to let the stories examine you. I know I’ve been challenged personally by this first round of writing. Am I more concerned with knowing or doing? Am I building my kingdom or God’s Kingdom? Do I trust God to use my failures to show His faithfulness? How am I doing with perseverance? I hope you’re enjoying and engaging with the Word as I am as I write.

This week we’ll explore three key ideas from Exodus 1-18 and help bring them to the baseball field. Again, I am sure you know the stories, but take some time to read Exodus 1-18 and watch the Bible Project’s video outlining the framework of Exodus 1-18 as well (https://thebibleproject.com/explore/exodus-1-18/) as we dive into this week’s “Baseball Guy’s Bible Guide.”

Due up in the Bottom of the Ninth:
- Handling Threats
- Hardened Hearts
- Israel’s Journey

Handling Threats

I wonder how Mark Belanger felt in 1981. Belanger won the Gold Glove 8 times between 1969 and 1978, was an All-Star in 1976, and received MVP votes three times. But in 1981, a young man named Cal Ripken, Jr. showed up in the Baltimore Oriole clubhouse. Life changed for Belanger in that moment.

Or how about Paul Schaal in 1973? Schaal had his best season as a pro in 1971 when he hit 11 home runs, drove in 63, and hit .274. In 1973, he hit a career high .288. But in 1973, a young man named George Brett showed up in the Kansas City Royal clubhouse. Schaal’s baseball life was never the same.

This leads me to this question from Exodus - how do you treat people you see as a threat? I wonder if Belanger and Schaal helped Ripken and Brett find their way in the big leagues, or if the threat they felt caused them to become bitter towards these future Hall of Famers.

In Exodus, we see the story of the nation of Israel 400 years after Abraham living in captivity to Pharaoh in Egypt. Israel was fruitful, multiplied and filled the land of Egypt. Pharaoh sees Israel as a threat. He enslaves the people and orders all of the Israelite boys to be drowned in the Nile River. That’s one way to deal with a threat!

It’s natural to deal with a threat by trying to fight for your own survival. That’s what makes the opposite reaction the way of Jesus. The idea of “working yourself out of a job” or preparing the path for your replacement is how to build God’s kingdom and not your own. Focus on others and their success, and watch what God does though your life.

Hardened Hearts

One of the risks of focusing on yourself and building your own kingdom is that your heart can become hardened towards other people and towards God. This is what occurred to Pharaoh and the book of Exodus outlines how this happened.

Before getting into the details, let’s grab on to this idea - God is a redeemer. His plan of redemption for all of mankind is recognized through Jesus Christ, but He will also redeem individuals from oppressive situations. In the case of the Israelites and Pharaoh, He hears the cries of the people and follows through on His promise to redeem. When saving such a large group of people, this plan takes many steps and a lot of time. It’s not an overnight flip of the switch.

One of the most interesting parts of Exodus is the plagues that begin in Exodus 7. There’s an interesting thing happening in Pharaoh’s heart, a repetition at the end of each plague that says one of three things - Pharaoh hardened his heart, that his heart was hardened, or that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

I’m convinced that a hardened heart happens to all of us in that order. We harden it ourselves first, people recognize that our hearts are hardened towards something, and then God allows or even hardens our heart further to accomplish His purposes. In this case, God was going to keep His promise to rescue the Israelite people. Pharaoh had done the hard work of hardening his own heart, and God allowed that choice to continue to manifest itself.

When it comes to our hearts, it’s up to us to keep our arteries from hardening so life’s blood can continue to flow. If we allow debris and distraction to harden our hearts, our outflow to our friends, families, coaches and teammates will be affected deeply. It’s up to us to prevent our hearts from hardening so Jesus has a clear temple from which to operate through our lives.

Israel’s Journey

Though God is on a mission to confront evil and redeem the Israelite people, the hearts of the very people He’s trying to save start to change while they’re on their journey. Even though the Israelites experience feasts, pillars of clouds and fire, crossing the Red Sea, turning bitter water into sweet water, bread from heaven, water from a rock, and defeating an army, they still start criticizing and complaining. Their hearts harden as well.

Think the Israelites are unique? Nah. The people Jesus encountered wanted His magic as much as they wanted Him.

We’re no different. How many prayers have we said and forgotten in the midst of a baseball game or season? We’ve all had those conversations with God in the middle of our baseball journey. And we’ve forgotten Him or turned on Him just as fast as the Israelites.

This is what I referred to earlier as letting the stories of the Bible examine you. It’s easy for us to criticize or judge the Israelites in hindsight. We know the end of the story. They’re the ones in the desert trying to survive. Get yourself into a desert experience and watch how quickly you thank Him in one moment and let fear and anxiety run away with you in the next. This journey of Israel represents our journey with God. We have to read it that way and understand the importance of the wisdom gained in the journey. We have to reject the moment-to-moment emotion and let God work out what He needs to work out. Sometimes it just takes a little time. Keep your heart soft to God and His leading.

Genesis 12-50: A Baseball Guy's Bible Guide

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Last week I went through Genesis 1-11 and explored the themes of Knowing vs. Doing, Defining good and evil, and Building kingdoms. One of the best things about the Word is that those themes will be repeated and expanded upon throughout the work. We have to hold on to previous learnings and allow them to expand. They provide the foundation on which we will continue to build our understanding in this “Baseball Guy’s Bible Guide.”

This week we’ll explore three key ideas from Genesis 12-50 and bring them into the context of baseball. Again, I am sure you know the stories, but take some time to read Genesis 12-50 and watch the Bible Project’s video outlining the framework of Genesis 12-50 as well (https://thebibleproject.com/explore/genesis-12-50/).

Due up in the Bottom of the Ninth:
- The Blessing of Abraham 
- Failure, Commitment of God, Blessing
- The Perseverance of Joseph

The Blessing of Abraham

As we move out of the early stories and into the Call of Abram (later to be known as Abraham), we get a taste of the power of God’s prophecy over a person. Prophecy is what makes the Word the Word. God speaks something over someone and it comes true. It is how we can test and know that this living, loving God is trustworthy. Prophecy is what makes Jesus so amazing. More on that throughout the year.

God speaks this prophecy over Abram in Genesis 12:2-3 (NIV):

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

The ESV version finishes the prophecy like this: “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” What an amazing and overwhelming prophecy to be spoken over one man. I can’t imagine the amount of doubt Abram must have felt in the moment God spoke this over him. It’s a prophecy that only God could accomplish.

This got me thinking about baseball’s version of Abraham. We don’t have a set of prophecies about the game, but there is one figure in the game that changed baseball in such a way that all of the baseball families who came after him were blessed.

Babe Ruth.

He changed the history of the New York Yankees and made that franchise a great nation. His name became great and home run hitters for the next century had him to thank. Oh, and the Boston Red Sox had to deal with the “Curse of the Bambino” after trading him (and watch out for some sort of curse on Adam Ottavino because of his recent Babe Ruth comments - insert a little “haha” here). Through Babe Ruth, the baseball nation has been blessed.

But it’s such a small blessing compared to that of Abraham on all of humanity. God is going to rescue humanity through Abraham - his land, his nation. We are blessed because of the blessing of Abraham.

Failure, Commitment of God, Blessing

But Abraham wasn’t the perfect Savior. He was just a man. Yes, a man God would use mightily, but still a man nonetheless. He would fail. And in spite of his failure, God would still use him and bless the nations.

Walk in Abram’s shoes for a minute. God speaks this incredible prophecy over you. You want to believe Him. But you have no children. You’re walking with God and you’re seeing Him do amazing things. He even gives you a vision and says “your reward shall be very great” (Genesis 15:1). What’s your response? The same as Abraham’s. “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless” (Genesis 15:2) and “Behold, you have given me no offspring” (Genesis 15:3). In spite of the visions God gives you, you’re swayed by your wife to take matters into your own hands and you have a child with one of your servants.

Does God react to this in anger and pull His prophecy from Abram? Nope. This is where we have to grab and hold on for life. In spite of our failures, God’s commitment to His Word will end in blessing. He is going to execute His plan no matter what we do. In fact, He may use our failures to make our human perception of His power even greater.

How do we take this to the field? Baseball is a hard game. It’s brutal. I was speaking to one of my dear friends in the game this past week about how exposed we are on the field. He works with hitters and made a connection with developing a hitter to an artist showing a sculpture to the masses in the early phases. The crowd, the opposition, the player’s teammates all expect the work to be complete in that moment when he is to come through. But the sculptor isn’t finished yet. He still has a lot of marble to chisel. This is our lesson from Abraham. God has promises and prophecies over your life, too. He has a plan for you, and much of that plan is centered on making God known. It has way less to do with your success on the field. You’re going to fail on the field, but God is never going to fail in making Himself known through your shortcomings. Be blessed in those failures and make God known through your weaknesses.

The Perseverance of Joseph

The number of Hall of Fame players who were traded from one team to another is staggering. The class of 2015 included three pitchers (Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Pedro Martinez) who had all been traded early in the careers. Babe Ruth, Nolan Ryan, Frank Robinson, and Lou Brock were given away for something their trading teams thought to be a better opportunity to win. I am certain that these trades provided a spark for those Hall of Famers to achieve new levels of success on the field.

I wonder if believing players who have been traded from one team to another have called upon Genesis 50:20 in those times of unexpected change - “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” In baseball terms, they may have said, “You don’t believe in me any more. God does and He’s going to use this trade for His glory.”

That verse comes from the story of Joseph and his perseverance through trial is extraordinary. I would encourage you to read through his life starting in Genesis 37. There are so many twists and turns in the life of Joseph that you’re left saying, “again?!?!” No matter what the circumstance, God proves that he can turn evil into good into Joseph’s life and that’s what we have to believe. Even though humans continue to prove themselves as evil, God will turn that evil into good. God’s plan is to rescue and bless His rebellious world. God’s faithfulness in the long term is to deliver a king that will restore the Garden. His promises are true and will continue to be proven true no matter the short-term circumstance.

Genesis 1-11: A Baseball Guy's Bible Guide

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Cracking open the Bible is an intimidating and daunting task. Just reading it can be difficult, and applying the ideas can be even more so. “A Baseball Guy’s Bible Guide” will walk readers through the Word, recommending readings and videos to accompany the ideas that we can take to the diamond along the way. It’s all about trying to get us, as baseball people, more engaged in the Bible and speaking “The Gospel of Jesus in the Language of Baseball.” We’ll start by exploring three ideas from Genesis 1-11 and bringing them into the context of baseball. I am sure you know the stories, but take some time to read Genesis 1-11 and watch the Bible Project’s video outlining the framework of Genesis 1-11 as well.

Due up in the Bottom of the Ninth:
- Knowing vs. Doing
- Defining Good and Evil
- Building Kingdoms

Knowing vs. Doing

In Bull Durham, Nuke Laloosh is a struggling, arrogant, young pitcher in need of guidance. He is listening to a lot of different voices and trying to find his way on the mound. In a moment of clarity, he finds freedom, whips in a strike, and stands on the mound shocked. In that moment he says, “God, that was beautiful, what’d I do?” Anyone who has played the game can relate to Nuke as we know there is a distinct difference between Knowing and Doing. The interesting thing about this moment is that it brings us back to the Garden of Eden. Take a look at Genesis 2:9,16-17:

“And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

We have the Tree of Life and we have the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. One leads to freedom, while the other leads to bondage and death. One leads to those beautiful moments on the field like Nuke experienced, and the other leads to a tailspin of frustration. It seems that this disconnect between a free mind designed for the life we were designed to live and those moments when we can’t get out of our own heads has roots in the very beginning of creation and the fall. We can tap into those moments like Nuke did on this side of eternity, but not grasp them consistently.

I wonder a couple of things. I wonder if there is abundantly more life in creating beautiful moments on the field than there is in filling our minds with all of the knowledge available at our fingertips in the internet age. I wonder if players are to focus on being artists and creating those moments, and coaches are supposed to focus on creating life-giving relationships and environments for the players. I wonder if this is what is rooted in the story of the Garden of Eden.

Defining good and evil

The fact of it is that once Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, God allowed us the opportunity to choose between His way and our way. We can choose to define good and evil for ourselves, or we can let God define it for us. Newsflash - we’re terrible at defining good and evil.

Have you ever engaged in an argument/discussion/debate about how a certain play should be scored during a game? We have rule books at all levels of baseball, but there are still areas where controversy brews. While these plays are fewer at the big-league level, I can tell you that the JV and Freshman levels of high school baseball are full of moments leaving everyone saying “I’ve never seen that before” and asking “How would you score that?”

The answer in these scenarios is to go to the source. In baseball, you go to the rule book. In life, we should go to the Bible. God wants us to flourish - we have to remember that. The Bible provides us with what is good and we should follow God’s definition of good in order to reflect the goodness, creativity, and character of God. In this effort, God will commune with us and He is constantly available to us. Like Noah who did all that God commended of him, we, too, can be a cleansing agent in this world by not seeking our own definitions of good and evil.

Building kingdoms

Whether we’re talking about the Garden of Eden or Noah and the Flood, the extraordinary truths portrayed in the stories of Genesis are so rich. The Tower of Babel is the same and we continue to see this story lived out year after year.

The people have come upon a new technology, the brick, and they say, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). How often do we see players, managers, or owners seeking to build their own kingdoms with their own interests in mind? We see it in someone else and we recognize that abundance of the wrong kind of pride in someone else. The problem becomes that we often fail to recognize that failing in ourselves.

The greatest in the game make those around him better. The greatest leaders in our world are marked with humility. While we witness individuals building their own Tower of Babel, we have to resist the urge to only make a name for ourselves. We are called to be people who are set apart by God, just like the Jewish people who transcribed these stories. We have to seek life, let God define good and evil for us, and find our freedom through Jesus, the promised one who defeated evil at the source.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments on this installment of “A Baseball Guy’s Bible Guide” and look forward to walking through Genesis 12-50 soon!

The Long Game & Chasing Marshmallows

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Athletes, of any people group, should understand the importance of playing “the long game.” True, deep satisfaction comes from hours of hard work, training one’s body for performance, and then succeeding on the field. Unfortunately, instead of driving us into the long game, our world tricks us into chasing marshmallows.

By now, most people know about the “Marshmallow Experiment” performed at Stanford University in the 1960s and early 1970s led by psychologist Walter Mischel. The studies were designed to study delayed gratification and found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes. To get a picture of how this test was executed, watch this video

What are the marshmallows in the baseball culture? Tournament teams. Playing hundreds of games in a year. Ignoring training for the sake of being on a field to play. And this is the trick - there might not be anything “wrong” with eating those marshmallows. They satisfy some of our urges and serve a purpose. But do they allow the players to maximize their abilities more than a training regimen and strategic opportunities to play the game against high-level opponents? I would argue “no” and call them marshmallows (and expensive marshmallows at that).

More importantly - what are the marshmallows in our spiritual lives? Praying “the prayer” and thinking that’s all you have to do. Listening to a podcast from a great Biblical teacher instead of going to church in your community and engaging with people. Devoting a few minutes on the front end of your day to God, but leaving Him on the shelf for the rest of the day. These also seem to satisfy our spiritual longings and serve a purpose, but they fail to allow us to fully integrate God in every corner of our lives.

God’s plan has always been to rescue and bless His rebellious people. Jesus is the culmination of a massive, long, true, and incredible story that spans thousands of years. God’s plan may be the greatest definition of “the long game.” Throughout 2019 (and possibly beyond), Bottom of the Ninth will be dedicated to one purpose - to dive into the books of the Bible, its wisdom and themes, and how every corner of the Scriptures can be transferred and applied to the baseball diamond. This project will be called “A Baseball Guy’s Guide to the Bible” and tell the never-changing story of the long game God is working out through His people. God was silent for hundreds of years before Christ, and sometimes the thousands of years since the Resurrection feels as if Christ’s second coming is farther away than it is close. As hard as it is, we have to keep our focus on the long game of God’s plan and experience the deep satisfaction that comes from a focus on the long term.

Don’t chase the marshmallow. Play the long game. Be blessed.

Support & Mentoring for Colorado Baseball Coaches

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In the past few months I’ve heard different pastors explain how they were given a heart for a certain city or area within a city to build their church. This was a new idea for me and I started to pray to this end for my ministry work, specifically through Complete Game Ministries. In the midst of those prayers, I experienced clarity in my calling - I am called to minister to baseball coaches in the state of Colorado.

It’s kind of a smaller group, kind of a niche group of people, but one that is very special to me. Some of my most treasured relationships exist in the Colorado baseball community and I desire to give back to the people engaging in this important work.

As a former head coach in a public and in a private school, I learned a lot. One of the things I learned is that head baseball coaches are very much like head pastors of a church. They’re expected to have a wide variety of gifts and skills, and often expected to operate a very complex organization with a level of perfection. Often times a head baseball coach operates outside of his comfort zone or skill set to help the program survive. These expectations can be difficult, even crushing, and it often leads coaches into isolation. It is my goal to break that cycle of isolation and build a community of support around baseball coaches in the state of Colorado.

Complete Game Ministries is creating a network of baseball coaches, pastors, priests, and youth ministry professionals in an effort to unite, encourage, and resource the baseball community in the state of Colorado. In the initial phase of this vision, I’ll be creating a group of current and former baseball coaches, administrators, pastors and priests who are interested in being available to listen and counsel baseball coaches in the state of Colorado through Complete Game Ministries. 

I’ve been engaging in this work with a small number of coaches in the state and helping them develop their baseball programs. I’ve prayed with them and over their programs. It’s been one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve done as a coach. To walk beside a brother through a time of growth and development, or a time of trial has been incredible. Winning a baseball game or building a program is an amazing thing, but to help others do it as well or better might be even more incredible. I want to invite others to join me in that work.

If you are interesting in supporting the baseball community in Colorado and serving the ministry in this way, please contact me using any of the methods below. I’m looking forward to having a network of coaches, hopefully in each of the areas outlined by the Colorado Dugout Club, ready to support our baseball coaches by the spring season. I look forward to hearing from you if you’re interested in being a mentor for baseball coaches in the state of Colorado through Complete Game Ministries.

Sincerely,

Keith Wahl
Executive Director - Complete Game Ministries
"The Gospel of Jesus in the Language of Baseball"
kwahl@completegameministries.org
https://completegameministries.org/

Bot9 - More Than Enough

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2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLV), “God can give you all you need. He will give you more than enough. You will have everything you need for yourselves. And you will have enough left over to give when there is a need.”

I really wanted to win a championship in my lifetime. It was a thing, a deep yearning. I remember how long it took my favorite football team, the Denver Broncos, to win a Super Bowl. They finally got over that hump while I was in college and I was 23 years old. That was a great day. I remember how long it took my favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, to win a World Series. They got over that hump in 2004 when I was 30 years old. Another great day. And, I remember when I finally won a high school state championship. I was 42 years old. That was a wonderful day.

Since then, the Broncos have won a couple more Super Bowls, and the Red Sox have won four World Series in past 14 years. Personally, one baseball program I started just completed a three-peat, while the other won their first state title this past spring. The past 20 years have been a time of incredible abundance.

In the midst of less and in the midst of plenty, there’s one thing that remains constant - God is more than enough. Jesus is more than enough. The Holy Spirit is more than enough. When we put anything above or in between our relationship, that thing let’s us down. It becomes more important for a time and we need reminded about our priorities. We might catch ourselves striving, or a friend might point it out lovingly, or God might even humble us until we get back to that simple idea. He is more than enough.

I’d like to encourage everyone to listen to the Chris Tomlin song and read through the lyric below as a reminder. Jesus Christ made Himself available to us through the Cross and He is more than enough for us, now and forever. Rest in that this baseball offseason.

As a note, I’m going to take a break from writing Bottom of the Ninth on a weekly basis until the new year and focus on completing my second book. I’m excited to share that book and new content in 2019 as we continue to speak The Gospel of Jesus in the Language of Baseball. We’ll see you in 2019!

Enough by Chris Tomlin
All of you is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough
You are my supply
My breath of life
And still more awesome than I know
You are my reward
worth living for
And still more awesome than I know
All of you is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough
You're my sacrifice
Of greatest price
And still more awesome than I know
You're my coming King
You are everything
And still more awesome than I know
More than all I want
More than all I need
You are more than enough for me
More than all I know
More than all I can say
You are more than enough for me

Bot9 - I Love Numbers

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I love numbers. Anyone who knows me or has coached with me or has played for me knows that I’m always trying to figure out which numbers to use to guide our thinking and performance. If I’m coaching a game, I’m watching the numbers tell me a story. If I’m teaching a hitter, he’s got a sensor on his bat and I’m measuring other external data as well. Without the numbers, I believe I’m uninformed. With the numbers, I feel informed and like a more effective guide for a team or player. I love numbers.

I know that both teams playing in the World Series are a step ahead of their competitors in how they use the data as well. That can be said for most, if not all, of the teams in the MLB Postseason. In fact, just this week I met a young man who pitched in the big leagues for two organizations this year. One of the organizations had made the postseason and the other did not. I asked him about the difference between the two organizations. He said it boiled down to the scouting reports and the data. The one who made the postseason was way ahead of the game in using data and giving it to their players, even in the minor leagues.

I’m also coming to love (maybe appreciate is a better word) the book of Numbers in the Bible. God instructs the people to take a census and He arranges the people around the tabernacle. God shows an order and He’s in the center.

But that’s not the most interesting part of Numbers. That’s in the rebellion of the people in the wilderness. It is in the book of Numbers that the people’s complaining intensifies and they demand to go back to Egypt. We see that God allows His people to obey or disobey, and face the consequences of those choices. In the end, God determines that this generation of people will not enter the promised land but that their children will.

God’s grace, mercy, and faithfulness in the face of rebellion is on display through the book of Numbers. We see how God allows us to walk towards him or walk away, and to face the consequences of our choices. It’s free will and sovereignty on display. Having walked into the wilderness for a couple of years now, I can tell you that I’m thankful for God’s grace, mercy, and faithfulness. I continue to pray that we will be proven obedient and worthy to enter whatever promised land He has for us. It is my hope that one day I will look back and love Numbers as much as I love numbers.

Bot9 - Creating Beauty

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Playoff baseball is the highest form of creativity. I’ve had to pause in amazement watching the Astros, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Brewers play this postseason. I’m trying to put my finger on this idea of the creativity I’m observing. It’s like I’m staring in observation of the extraordinary as I watch baseball on the television in the same way I’ve stood motionless in front of a Van Gogh or an inspired work of art in a gallery.

The creative elements of the game are on full display in the movements of the players on the field and in the application of data and analytics. People are using their God-given physical gifts to play the game, and people are using their God-given intellect to put the right players in the right position on the field. What an incredible act of worship the game of baseball is!

A couple of months ago, I wrote about how knowledge can lead to arrogance. What I’m coming to understand is that creativity can lead us to health.

Writer James Clear had this to say in his article titled, “Make More Art: The Health Benefits of Creativity”:

“The moral of this story is that the process of making art — whether that be writing, painting, singing, dancing, or anything in between — is good for you.

There are both physical and mental benefits from creating art, expressing yourself in a tangible way, and sharing something with the world. I'm trying to do more of it each week, and I'd encourage you to do the same.

In our always–on, always–connected world of television, social media, and on–demand everything, it can be stupidly easy to spend your entire day consuming information and simply responding to all of the inputs that bombard your life.

Art offers an outlet and a release from all of that. Take a minute to ignore all of the incoming signals and create an outgoing one instead. Produce something. Express yourself in some way. As long as you contribute rather than consume, anything you do can be a work of art.

Open a blank document and start typing. Put pen to paper and sketch a drawing. Grab your camera and take a picture. Turn up the music and dance. Start a conversation and make it a good one.”

The heading of James 2:14-22 in the ESV Bible says, “Faith without works is dead.” I wonder if part of the subtext of the word “works” there for James could have something to do with creative inspiration. Even in writing this my conscience is screaming at me, “Is this idea heretical?” I often wonder if we hold back some of our creativity because of that kind of fear.

Paul and the other writers of the epistles wrote letters as their creative outlet to exhort and encourage new believers in the faith. In 1 Peter 1:13-2:10, Peter connects Old Testament ideas to the current situation of the new believers. He specifically draws them into this idea of a “cornerstone” in Christ. What a beautiful image that has now lasted over 2,000 years!

Should we do the same with our faith? Instead of only reading or studying the Word this week, what if you created something with what you’ve learned? Write, discuss, apply, paint, sculpt…do something with your faith this week. Exercise those muscles and see what occurs. For me, that’s what Bottom of the Ninth and the other pieces we create through Complete Game are - a creative exercising of our spiritual walk. I hope it serves to inspire others to create with their faith as well!