Keith Wahl

Arrogance of Knowledge

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I’ve been around a lot of baseball coaches in the past 20 years. One thing I have heard from many (not all, but many) is that they only want to work with the best kids. They might only want to coach Varsity baseball, or they might only feel fulfilled if they work with college players. I’ve even heard some say that they “wouldn’t waste their time” coaching younger kids or those with less talent.

It seems that there is a human tendency that brings our flesh to that point and I think the issue is valuing head knowledge over wisdom. The more we learn or feel like we know, the higher status we apply to ourselves. And, the better our experiences and success, that pride can go even higher. We forget the words of Albert Einstein - “the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

Here recently I’ve been feeling a strong pull to do more ministry in the baseball community. I want to coach more like Jesus. I want to point more kids to Jesus. I’m trying to reject and push against the resume I’ve accumulated through the years, and lean into what would allow me to show Jesus to more people.

As a part of that process, I met with a pastor from our church last week. As we discussed ministry, vocation, and so on, he asked me this question - “Would you prefer to do ministry for believers or non-believers?” I had never considered the difference, but there is a profound divide between ministry to both of these groups, isn’t there?

I wonder if some of this separation comes from the same thing as the older baseball coach experiences - a lot of head knowledge that leads to a level of arrogance. We all need reminders like this at different stages and different phases. Maybe my thoughts in this area come from the later-in-life transformation that I experienced in my 27th year. I resonate and celebrate with the person who comes to the Cross like a child. May we all take the reminder this week and walk with a child-like faith this week, seeking the newness and the wonder of a child in faith.

Matthew 18:1-4, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Bot9 - Rivalries

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This past weekend was another installment of one of the great rivalries in baseball, and all of sports - the New York Yankees versus the Boston Red Sox. As a Red Sox guy, images like the one above and the weekend sweep bring joy to my heart. However, as a Red Sox guy, there’s also the lingering suspicion that this year’s team being touted as the “best Red Sox team ever” has the potential to end miserably. Old habits in the hearts of fans die hard, even after success!

The rekindling of an old rivalry got me thinking about the nature of rivalries. To say rivalries aren’t Biblical would be inaccurate. They’re everywhere in the Book! Cain and Abel. Jacob and Esau. Joseph and his brothers. David and Saul. The two brothers in the parable of the Prodigal son. Even Jesus and the religious leaders of the day sparked a rivalry ending in Christ’s death.

As I heard one popular preacher of the Word say this week, the Bible is a chronicle of people doing things wrong as much as it is a set of directions of how to do things right. Rivalries exist because of our fallen nature and they’re real. We create adversarial relationships against other people, teams, and ideas. Does competition really need to be this way?

I’m convinced that it doesn’t. I believe that the words of Christ and the words of Paul can be applied in such a way on the field that it will draw out the best in us. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:25-26) This speaks to the idea of rivalry and gives us an opportunity to focus on the Spirit in competition.

We have no need to become conceited when we experience success, and we have no need to envy someone else when we’re on the short end of the stick. We can accept success humbly and learn when we fall short. This makes sport an open door to learning. Rivalries in sport are fun in that they raise the intensity of a given contest. But what is God calling us to in those moments of highest intensity? An opportunity to live by the Spirit and be joyful no matter the outcome.

What’s your favorite rivalry and how has it drawn out the best in you? The CG community would love to know! Reply or share your answer via the Complete Game social media platforms today.

Bot9 - Called Up

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On Sunday night during a delay before Sunday Night Baseball, David Ross was telling Tim Kurkjian and Karl Ravech about his experience of being called up to the big leagues for the first time. His minor league manager brought the team together before the game, started talking about the plan for the game as a distraction, but then shared the news about Ross being called up with the whole team. It was a moment the whole team got to enjoy, a dream for all of them to share.

I will never forget the first time I watched a player get called up. When I was a batboy for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, our locker was at the end of the row, right in front of the pay phone (yep, the pay phone). In August of that 1990 season, Jeff Shaw got the call to the big leagues. I remember the congratulatory handshakes and pats on the back, but what really struck me was the phone call he made to is dad. He was shaking, nearly crying, as he called his father to share the news with him. It was an amazing moment to be able to witness.

As my wife, Alyson, and I continued reading Moving Mountains by John Eldredge this weekend, it became more apparent that Eldredge is calling us up to a higher level of prayer, a "big-league" level of prayer, if you will. He uses three words to describe different stages of one's prayer life - a slave, an orphan, and a son.

Many of us pray as if we are slaves - slaves to a religious system, to our thoughts, or to trying to limit the emotion we're willing to share with God (as if He doesn't know). We're bound in some way and Eldredge's encouragement is to "turn off the editor." This one really resonated with me as I wondered if I've been too controlled in my prayer life.

The next stage, phase, or mindset was as an orphan. Eldredge used the examples of praying for scraps, hoping to just get the stuff that falls from the table of God's feast. It's thinking that the world's resources are scarce, when the God who created the whole world only has a little for His creation.

The final idea was that of praying as a son. As my kids get older, I continue to connect deeply with this idea of a Father's relationship to his kids. When I got home from reading with Alyson, my son was standing up on the outside deck. He saw me and just said, "Hi, daddy." It made me think, "When was the last time I started my prayers for the day or in the moment with a simple, 'Hi, Daddy.'"? Ever? While I did reach a new level of authenticity in my prayers this week - a tearful call that was one of those, "this is just too hard and too much to handle" kind of prayer - I think it's time for me to be called up to a new level of relationship, a sonship, in my prayers with my Heavenly Father.

I want to encourage all of us to call our to our Father like a son this week. Maybe in a "Hi, Daddy" kind of prayer. Maybe in a real, authentic cry for mercy. Or maybe shaking with joy as you're overwhelmed because something incredible happened to you like when Jeff Shaw got called up to the big leagues. Let's make this our big-league level of prayer - one that we can all choose to attain.

Bot9 - Prayer, How can CG pray for you?

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As I mentioned in last week's Bottom of the Ninth called "Baptism," we are seeing incredible spiritual momentum in the baseball community. This momentum is occurring for several reasons, not the least of which prayer.

My wife, Alyson, and I continued our weekend reading dates together this weekend by cracking open a new book - Moving Mountains by John Eldredge. In that book, Eldredge takes a deep dive in the idea of prayer and how we might be able to pray more effectively. Early in the book, he starts to build an argument around what he considers to be the most effective prayers. The first two elements are:

God is growing us all up.
We find ourselves in the midst of a great and terrible war.


While we are seeing and experiencing spiritual momentum, that's going to be short lived and limited if we don't engage in prayer for the baseball community. As I was reading with Alyson, I was convicted to ask our Bottom of the Ninth readership these two questions:

How is God growing you currently?
How can we as a ministry go to battle with and for you through prayer?


We want to hear from you, pray for you, and hear how God is moving through the game of baseball across the country. Know that those of us involved with Complete Game Ministries will listen and pray for you. I'm not just talking about the shoot a prayer up while brushing our teeth either. We're going to pray individually and corporately for years for spiritual change to continue by speaking "The Gospel of Jesus in the Language of Baseball."

I've had a chance to see and experience long-term fruit for maybe the first time in my life. Now I want to see more mountains moved. Join us by sharing your prayer requests with us by answering the questions above!

Bot9 - Baptism

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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

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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

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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

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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

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“'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.”