Justin Dillard

Quest for Perfection

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For Love of the Game - Quest for Perfection
by Justin Dillard

The feedback from our "At the Movies" series and the coinciding CG Podcast has led us on a path to continue this exploration of the spiritual lessons we can learn from our favorite baseball movies. Enjoy this month's focus on For Love of the Game!

“Billy Chapel, in quest of the perfect game. You also realize he may very well be at the crossroads of a brilliant career. He's a cinch to wind up in the Hall of Fame. However, after this game, he has to make the big decision. Will he continue to do what has been his life, maybe more important than life itself, baseball? Or will he hang it up, and would a perfect game... give him the logical conclusion to the great career?”

“And, you know, Steve, you get the feeling that Billy Chapel… isn't pitching against left-handers. He isn't pitching against pinch hitters. He isn't pitching against the Yankees. He's pitching against time. He's pitching against the future, against age... and, even when you think about his career, against ending. And tonight, I think he might be able to use that aching old arm one more time...to push the sun back up in the sky... and give us one more day of summer.”


As the great Vin Scully so eloquently put it, Billy Chapel was pitching against time in his quest for the Perfect Game. We all are. In a 19-year storied career, Billy showed greatness over time, but he had never reached Perfection. Few in the game have. In fact, over the 140 years of Major League Baseball history and over 210,000 games played, there have been 23 official Perfect Games by the current definition. No pitcher has ever thrown more than one. As rare and special that is over 140 years, there have been fewer in the history of the world to attain perfection in faith. You can count that number with one finger.  

If there has only been one human to live a perfect life in the history of the world, is it even important for us to consider?

“…you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  -Matthew 5:48

So the paradox of all creation is that perfection is the expectation, but none of us can do it. In God’s eyes, righteousness (or right standing in His eyes according the Law he gave us through Moses) is the only acceptable form of perfection.

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I believe perfection in God’s eyes looks more like the picture on the left than the picture on the right. The picture on the right is Felix Hernandez after striking out the last batter to complete his perfect game.

Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” If we could attain perfection on our own ability, we would have no need for a Savior through Jesus Christ.

That’s where we receive comfort when Paul points us to the picture on the left in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

The picture on the left is kid named Brody wearing the jersey of his favorite player on the Rochester Ridgemen, Ethan Luna (aka Big Tuna). Perfection isn’t something we earn, it’s something Jesus gives to us. Then the rest of our lives we are growing into that righteousness.

In your pursuit of perfection in righteousness, you’re not pitching against sin. You’re not pitching against accomplishment. You’re not pitching to earn righteousness. You’re aiming for perfection through righteousness given to us by the one perfect God.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philippians 1:6

Dear Younger Me Series "Concussions, Steroids, & Tommy John???" by Justin Dillard

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This week's "Dear Younger Me" letter comes from the founder of Complete Game Ministries, Justin Dillard. Since concluding his college baseball career, Justin returned home to Colorado in 2005 to begin coaching high school baseball as well as begin vocational youth ministry. After serving in the church from 2007 to 2011, he founded a local baseball ministry called Complete Game Ministries. Beginning in January of 2016, Justin began his service on staff with Athletes in Action Baseball as the National Teams Director. His role is to oversee, promote, recruit, setup and organize all National Baseball teams. Additionally he manages social media and alumni relations. Justin currently lives in Highlands Ranch, Colorado with his wife, Michelle, and their kids Caroline, Jackson, and Lilah. They are members of Centennial Covenant Church in Littleton.  Justin is passionate about meeting athletes where they are with the gospel of Jesus Christ and he feels blessed that God has provided him the opportunity serve the Kingdom in this way.

Dear Younger Justin,

It doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, but it is immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine. Let me explain.

You overcame a lot in high school. The seven concussions were tough, but you let them become an excuse. Academically, you gave up because it got hard. You didn’t know how to manage your emotions so there ended up being a lot of holes in the walls around the house (Mom took that as an opportunity to creatively decorate to hide your anger). But in the midst of it, you realized that you weren’t “The Man” and you couldn’t do it yourself and you recognized your need for a Savior. You began the early stages of a faith that will take you incredible places and deliver you from some dark, dark places. You even got involved in the church for the first time in your life and met some people who cared more about you as a person than they did you as a baseball player. Including this girl pictured with you here:

Your love/hate relationship with baseball will teach you more than you’ll know. For example, you’ll hit in the three hole and be the starting All-Centennial League catcher on the State Championship Smoky Hill team your senior year but you’ll be pissed that you don’t make all-state or get invited to the Top 40 game. Then that summer you’ll play for Cherry Creek and win a Connie Mack State Championship but you’ll be pissed about your stats. Let me save you some heartache, because later, you will forget your stats anyways and the championship rings will end up in the crawl space in your basement. You will, however, continue to have a relationship with both coaches and many of your teammates from those teams for decades to come. You’ll even officiate a few of their weddings (I know that sounds irresponsible, but I’m getting to that part).

Now you’re a freshman at a powerhouse JUCO in Arizona. Your path to the big leagues looks good. You will have success by hitting over .400 during your career there while stealing a lot of bases, hitting a lot of doubles, and becoming an outstanding bunter and two-strike hitter. But that’s not going to be enough for you. While you’re getting on base and swiping bags, you will look to the guys dropping bombs and be discontent. You are an undersized catcher playing JUCO baseball in the steroid era, and this will test you. You’re seeing guys that you’re competing with for a spot work half as hard as you in the weight room. They get big while you don’t. This may surprise you, but you legitimately consider it. But when you talk to someone who you think will support you in juicing, they ask you, “Is that who you are? Is that who your parents raised you to be? If it is, then do it. Are you like that guy? You want to grow up overweight and bald while you can’t have kids? Then go be that guy.” Thank God he called you out or you probably would’ve done it.

After your two years in Arizona, you will sign to play D-1 in Texas (even though you wanted to go to California) where you and your girlfriend will transfer together. The summer before you go to Dallas, you get to do something that you wanted to do since Coach Johnson told you about it. You get to go to play with Athletes in Action in the Alaska Baseball League. This will be the first time your faith will find its way onto the field with you. Being in team discipleship will change the way you engage your faith forever. You’ll experience what it’s like to have fellowship everywhere and not just in the church. Your expectations of what the baseball brotherhood is will raise far beyond the mission of winning baseball games to a mission that never ends. Even though this is a monumental summer for you spiritually, you’re pissed because you finished the season on the DL with a thumb injury. You think you’ll redeem it by returning the next summer to play, but once again, the incredible happens, but it’s not what you hoped for.

When you start fall ball of your first year in Texas you start slow but by the end of the fall, you’re back to your normal self. In fact you find that your swing and speed at the new ballpark become a triple-making match made in heaven. You’ll be disappointed to find out that after a pretty outstanding performance at the end of fall that continued after Christmas break wasn’t enough to put you above a prominent recruit who also transferred in but hadn’t played all fall with a broken wrist. You got beat out by someone who had never played at that school with you. Desperate to contribute, you try pitching long enough to miss a lot of bats with your curveball and hear a pop in your elbow. Tommy John Surgery and a 15-month rehab comes next. It gets worse. The pitching coach that got you hurt becomes the head coach by the end of your rehab. When you’re ready to come back, coach cuts you. That’s it. You won’t know that your last game is your last game until 15 months later. With a healthy arm and eligibility left, your journey to the big leagues will fall short.

Not what you hoped for but immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine. Through all of that, the girl from church small group stays in the trenches with you the whole time. She knew you before you knew Jesus and loved you anyway. (I know you were an arrogant jerk before Jesus. You end up loving Jesus but you’re still not a “nice guy”. I can’t wait for you to see it. It’s hilarious). She went with you to college and watched you fight through concussions, steroids and Tommy John while growing in faith. Out of all the teammates that you’ll have in your life, none will be better than Michelle. She’ll challenge you, build you up and bring out the best in you. Good thing because the hardest game you’ll ever play still awaits: parenting.

Past your concussions and academic problems, you develop a passion for learning and God’s Word. You’ll get into ministry because you’re no longer an athlete and you want to be important. It doesn’t take you long to figure out that you’re trying to give away something you didn’t have. I’m telling you, there’s no better accountability than when people are looking to you for spiritual leadership. This drives you to the Word and you’ll give it away as you go. There will be few things in life that will give you more joy than ministry happening somewhere it wasn’t “supposed to happen” like a baseball field or facility. You’ll mourn the loss when someone you share your love for Jesus with leaves your ministry team but you’ll rejoice in your part in the Kingdom when you see them continue to do the same thing for others. You’ll see pictures of guys you don’t even know who are learning from guys you discipled teaching baseball players about Jesus from a bucket. That will be all the encouragement you need to keep going. Over time, you’ll surprise yourself at what God will do through you and you’ll be humbled why He chose you as His instrument.

Past your issues with being undersized, you develop a love for the weight room and you put on the size later in a healthy way. Past Tommy John and the 15-month rehab, you’ll be able to play catch with your kids in the front yard and impress your players with your “cannon” for years to come. Unlike many of your former teammates, you never stop loving to play. Maybe it’s a lack of closure thing. Or maybe you finally figure out what it’s like to worship God through the game and you can’t get enough of it.

This won’t make sense to you, but even though you have some incredible baseball experiences before your playing career ends, you have far better ones afterward. You’ll get to play in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela. You’ll even get to suit up with the Red Sox for a day and hit between Dante Bichette and Trot Nixon. You’ll experience life through baseball finally because you’re not trying to “make it”. Your why changes from “making it” to sharing Jesus through the game. Ultimately, God redeems the years you wasted pointing your life toward the game and dragging Him along when you point your life at Him and take the game with you.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Love, Justin

Almost Perfect

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There are a lot of good ideas that go right to the edge of Jesus, but need to get pushed over the edge. Here’s how last week’s idea of “perfection is the enemy of good” moves into full commitment and surrender to Christ. On June 2, 2010, Armando Galarraga pitched the best game of his life, retiring 26 of 26 Cleveland Indians with one out left to throw the ever-elusive Perfect Game. The next batter, Jason Donald hit a ground ball to first basemen Miguel Cabrera, who fielded and threw it on time to Galarraga who was covering first, only to have umpire Jim Joyce mistakenly call him safe. With one bad call, Galarraga’s perfect game turned into a one hitter. In over 140 years of Major League Baseball, there have only been 23 perfect games and Galarraga’s deserving effort will forever be left out. So how did he respond? He smiled and walked back to the mound to get the final out of the game. While all of Detroit Tiger players, coaches, and fans were livid at the injustice, Galarraga smiled and went back to doing what he’d done all day.

We all long to see and experience perfection because we know how special it is. And yes, coming up short of perfect was designed to be crippling. In our own lives we create an image in our mind of what perfection would look like, and we experience the pain of coming up short on a daily basis. Yes, we could save ourselves a lot of heartache by giving up on the idea of perfect and just taking the best we can get, however, I believe God put perfect there for a reason.

In the Old Testament, God gave perfect to Moses and called it the Law. If you could live the law to perfection, then you could earn righteousness in the eyes of the Lord. The problem was, no one could do it, not one. So we see story after story in the Old Testament on the pain that follows God’s people as they come up short of perfect. However, maybe God didn’t give us perfect so that we could reach it. Instead He gave us perfect so we could know that we’re not it. Through the law many showed that they were relatively good, but to God, good wasn’t good enough.

Thank God that He had an answer. Through the law, we recognized that there is a gap between perfect and good; a gap between God and us. So God sent His son Jesus to stand in the gap. Jesus came and was perfect when we could not be so that we could see what righteousness could look like in human form. Then Jesus paid the price of our imperfection by dying on the cross and he handed us his righteousness and perfection. Three days later, Jesus conquered our death by rising from the grave. So Jesus handed us perfect on his ability since we couldn’t do it on our own.

Yes, perfect is the enemy of good. And good is the enemy of perfect. One is attainable on your own ability and one is only attainable on Christ’s ability. The gospel says that good isn’t good enough and perfection is the expectation. Settling for good enough isn’t the answer. Jesus is. Jesus was perfect when we could not be. Our discontent between good and perfect should point us to Jesus.

Matthew 5:17-20 - “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Give Me The Real Thing

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Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to go to Red Sox Fantasy Camp to help catch in the Pros vs. Campers game.  The whole thing was a lot cooler than I thought it would be.  There were twelve teams that were coached by former Red Sox greats as they competed all week to make playoffs, and ultimately try to win the camp World Series.  The Red Sox did a great job making the camper’s experience as close to the real thing as they could.  They had lockers in the clubhouse filled with authentic uniforms with their names on them, they were treated like big leaguers by the clubhouse and training staff, they played on the Red Sox spring training fields and even had champagne baths after playoff wins and rings if they won the championship.  Everything was “big league” except one thing…the level of play.

That’s where the Pros vs. the Campers game came in.  Each team got to play against the pros in a three inning game.  Hitters got to try to hit “Oil Can” Boyd, Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, and Scott Williamson.  Pitchers got to pitch to Trot Nixon, Dante Bichette, and Troy O’Leary.  For three innings they got to see the difference between their fantasy and the real thing.  As I caught, we didn’t really have signs.  Every pitch was a fastball away because no one could catch up to a real fastball and nobody wanted to drill a camper.  If a guy wanted to throw something different, he’d just give me a glove signal since none of the campers knew what it meant (not that it would help them if they did).

In one particular inning, former closer and flame-thrower, Scott Williamson was throwing hard enough to throw by campers but nowhere near as hard as he was capable.  So a camper started to talk trash to him.  “Quit throwing this sissy stuff.  Give me the real thing!”  That was all it took to piss off Willy.  Luckily, the next pitch was caught on camera and you can see it above.  You can see Willy’s body torqued around after reaching back and really letting one go.  You can see the cloud of dirt popping off my glove in ways that only happen in movies.  But the best of all is the look on the camper’s face.  After seeing “sissy stuff” all week, he got his first glance at the real thing and his face shows it.

The fact is, just because you dress like a big leaguer and get treated like a big leaguer doesn’t mean you’re a big leaguer.  Not just anyone can become a big leaguer.  There’s more to it than that.  Even though the campers paid a hefty price financially to play in the fantasy camp, it pales in comparison to the price the pros paid in sweat to be big leaguers.  Because of this difference, the value of a Fantasy Camp World Series ring will forever pale in comparison to the ’04 World Series rings that some of the pros had.

I believe the church has done the same for grace.  We’ve cheapened grace by saying that we don’t need to change the way we live because Christ already paid for our sin in advance.  We don't care what our sin cost because the forgiveness is free.  Because of this cheap grace, we have many “Christians” who adhere to the lowest common denominator of occasional church attendance and never come close to freedom from the sin that separated us from God in the first place or the life abundant that Christ died for us to have!  We’ve become okay with being Fantasy Camp Christians.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Deep down, we all want the real thing. In the coming weeks, we’re going to look at costly grace and what that looks like in the everyday life of the baseball player and coach.  We’re going to look at grace that delivers the real thing.

Spit On It

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There are so many things that can happen in an at-bat.  Everything changes depending on which of the 15 pitchers on the other team is pitching.  Righty or lefty.  Arm slot. Fastball velocity.  What do they throw for offspeed?  The possibilities are endless, so as a hitter, there’s no way you can prepare for everything.  I believe great hitters always stick to the plan that maximizes their strengths.

For me, I sat fastball.  I worked on hitting a fastball where it was pitched because I knew I would be on time with my fastball rhythm swing.  I was not going to be beat by a fastball.  So that meant that I was willing to take a breaking ball for a strike in order to get my fastball that I could drive.  Sometimes I would fall to an 0-2 count on two straight curveballs, but I was okay with it.  That was my plan.  Once I got to two strikes, I would adjust into foxhole mode where I would balance up and trust my hands.  When I would get a breaking ball with two strikes, I would foul it off until he walked me or made the mistake of throwing a fastball over the plate so I could drive it up the middle.  It was my plan that played to my strengths.  Every at bat I went up to execute my plan:  Spit on breaking balls early in the count, foul them off late, hit the fastball.

As we look at Jesus in his last days, although it may be hard to believe, he was executing his plan to a T.  When Judas betrayed Jesus and the mob of armed men came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane the book of Matthew says:

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

These verses show that Jesus had the ability to meet force with force; that he had the ability to avoid the cross, but he chose not to.  That wasn’t his plan.  And when “one of his companions” decided to defend Jesus with the sword, Jesus said “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”  He wasn’t saying that he was conceding defeat.  Jesus was saying that his plan was still to win.  But he wasn’t going to do it that way.  He wasn’t going to do it by playing their game, he was going to do it by playing his.

But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”  The plan was in place, from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane.  The plan was always that the Messiah would come, be the perfect and holy sacrifice for our sin, and be buried and rise three days later to conquer death. Anyone can overpower physically.  But only Jesus could overpower sin and death.  So he let the cross happen to play to a strength that only he had.

Our plan in the faith needs to be the same.  Don’t let the circumstances of life take you away from your plan.  That means sometimes you let trials and tribulation happen just so you can stick to the plan of faith.

The plan is in place.  Stick to the plan and spit on anything else.

(Don’t) Live for Today

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29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

  • Matthew 19:29-30

In 1999, the New York Mets were so desperate to get rid of the boisterous Bobby Bonilla that they decided that it would be better to buy out the last year of his contract with the remaining $5.9 million than to keep him for one more year.  However, they also had a “can’t miss” investment with Bernard Maddoff that they thought would give them outrageous returns, so instead of giving Bonilla his payout in 2000, they deferred it so they could invest that money with Maddoff.

Here’s what happened: Maddoff’s investment ended up being a Ponzi scheme that left the Mets in financial ruins and the deferred buyout with Bonilla means that the Mets owe Bonilla $1.2 million a year from 2011 to 2035.  So the Mets gave Bonilla a 24-year contract worth $29.8 million for a year he didn’t even play.  In fact, this year’s 2015 National League Champion Mets paid more money this year to the long-retired, 52 year old Bonilla than to Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard COMBINED!

What do we learn?  The world has many things to offer that look shiny and great, which we convince ourselves would make our lives so much better if we had them.  Like your iPhone 5 that cost $849 in September 2012 that was worth $300 by September 2014 when the iPhone 6 came out.  Or as baseball players, how much better would life be if you made varsity, got a scholarship at that college, got drafted, got called up?  Don’t be the Mets.  Don’t live for the here and now while you blow the future.  Instead live for eternity in the here and now.

When a rich young ruler came up to Jesus and asked him what he needed to do to get eternal life, Jesus first told him to keep the commandments.  The man claimed that he had, so he asked what was missing.  Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

What is valuable in your life?  What do you live for?  Honestly.  How much of your efforts are pointed at success, money, things?  What are the things in your life that you wouldn’t be willing to walk away from even if Jesus asked you to your face?  What are the things that are robbing your eternity so you can seek temporary comfort or happiness today?  

Don’t live for today.  Live for Eternity.

Good Friday & Easter - Bottom of the Ninth #102

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Bottom of the 9th - Good Friday & Easter

Good Friday & Easter

by Justin Dillard, Valor Baseball Chaplain/Complete Game Ministries

James 4:6 - 

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.â€

Coach Wahl's practice plans always have a verse of the week and a thought of the day.  When we gathered around the mound after practice on Tuesday, I spoke about this week's verse of the week.When you read that verse, what do you think of when you think of “the proudâ€?  I know, I initially think of the stereotypical, chest-beating, outward pride that is boastful and arrogant.  It’s not surprising that God opposes that guy because everybody else does, too.  But there’s another kind of pride that we don’t think of as much: the inward pride.

Outward pride seems to show up when things are going right while inward pride shows up when things are going wrong. During a losing streak or a hitting slump, inward pride takes the focus from where it should be and we put it on ourselves instead.  God opposes that, too.

What we need to understand about pride is that it, in all forms, is us elevating ourselves, along with our successes AND failures as the most important thing…and it’s not.  It’s a lie that we’ve been believing all the way back to the original sin in the Garden of Eden when the serpent told Eve in Genesis 3:4-5, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.† So ultimately pride is us exalting ourselves to the level of God and saying that we’re as or more important than God and His plan.  And that, my friends is where all sin starts.  Therefore God opposes the proud.

The opposite of pride is humility and God gives grace to the humble.  We see this perfectly in Jesus who even though he was God, humbled Himself before God by coming to earth taking the form of a man.  Then he humbled Himself below everyone in the history of the world by dying our death as the payment for our sin on the cross that we observe today on Good Friday.  This is the greatest act of humility that the world has ever seen, so God exalted Him as the name above all names in which every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord.

So if Christ's humility served everyone who has, is, and will ever lived in the history of the world, then do you think that we can show up to the ballpark everyday and put ourselves below the other 15 or so guys on our team so they can be lifted up?  You know what would prevent that?  Either me putting myself above the team because of my success or me putting myself above the team by turning inward in my struggles, or all of us turning inward because of a team losing streak.  Pride will turn everyone in during bad circumstances and we will collectively spiral down.  But if in humility, we’re all more worried about lifting up the brother who is next to us, then we will lift each other up and rise as one, no matter the circumstances.

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God,did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." -Philippians 2:5-11

The thought of the day for Tuesday was: "Your greatness is measured by your horizons." - Michelangelo

How does Michelangelo's quote fit with the verse of the week?  It's spring in Colorado.  Local weather forced us to re-schedule our game with Pomona yesterday.  On Wednesday, I had searched the  weather report online trying to get more information.  Modern forecasts include temperature, humidity, wind speed, chance of precipitation, and “visibility,†which is the distance you can see clearly toward the horizon.  I’d like you to consider not only how far you can see into the distance but also what you see when you look. The inspirational and vivid goals within your horizons, as Michelangelo suggests, can be the fuel for greatness.

I challenge you to expand the clarity and distance of your vision.  What horizons do you see that will be the measure of your greatness when you humble yourself before God and your teammates in the days and weeks ahead?

Happy Easter!

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Wait…there’s something better.

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The sign of a mature hitter is easily seen in his pitch selection. No matter how talented a hitter may be, he will always hit the fastball down the middle better than he’ll hit the breaking ball in the dirt. He knows that the guy on the mound has made it his job to break up his rhythm and timing and will try to get him to chase. So early in the count, he’ll let pitchers nibble on the black and try to sneak in off speed pitches and he won’t be teased by it. He’s waiting for something better. He’s waiting for the pitcher to fall behind in the count and have to relent, or to just take his free pass. If he gets to two strikes, he just fouls off close pitches until he gets what he’s looking for. He doesn’t chase bad pitches that would put him behind in the count or give away easy outs on the first few pitches of an at bat. He’s patiently waiting to get a pitch that he can put a good swing on. He’s looking for a pitch in one spot and nowhere else.

Mature Christians look similar.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” - Colossians 3:1-4 (NASB)

The reality is that there’s an adversary with much more evil intentions than throwing off your rhythm and timing and there are consequences far worse than a poor at bat. This adversary isn’t coming at you with high fastballs or sliders away; he’s coming at you with the things that are on earth. He’s got money and possessions that are trying to steal your heart, lust that is trying to steal your purity, and he has drugs, tobacco and alcohol that are trying to steal control over actions.

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience,and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.” - Colossians 3:5-7 (NASB)

Don’t be teased. Wait… there’s something better. Set your mind on the things above.

and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” - Colossians 3:10 (NASB)

You were created in the image of the creator of the universe. Seek this. What you’ll find is an eternal joy that stumps temporary happiness, life abundant that far exceeds death and enslavement, and a hope of glory with which no temporary affliction can compare. You have a life that looks like Jesus. The one who gave up everything so you can have everything. At such a price, why would you settle for anything else?

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” -  Philippians 4:8

“Not you…Him”

Shoeless Joe
Shoeless Joe

In the last scene of the movie Field of Dreams, before walking into the corn field, Shoeless Joe Jackson turns and asks,

SHOELESS JOE

“Hey, do you want to come with us?”

RAY

“Do you mean it?”

SHOELESS JOE

“No, not you…him.” (pointing to Terrance Mann)

RAY

“Wait a second. Why him? I built this field. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me... I’ve done everything that I was asked to do. I didn’t understand it but I’ve done it. And I haven’t once asked, ‘what’s in it for me.’”

SHOELESS JOE

“What are you saying, Ray?”

RAY

“I'm saying what's in it for me?”

There’s something that we do naturally that is extremely dangerous. We treat the gospel like it’s a transaction. We have this mentality that, “I believe in Jesus, I go to church, I even give money sometimes…I’m a ‘good person’.   I’ve done everything that I was asked to do. I didn’t understand it but I’ve done it. And I haven’t once asked, ‘what’s in it for me.’ God owes me.” And when we don’t get what we want or things don’t go the way we want, we’re ready to call God on it.

Matthew 20:1-16 has a parable of laborers in a vineyard, and it goes like this. “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Here’s what’s important for us remember about the gospel and the Kingdom of God.

  • Don’t forget our roles. God is not the merchant and us the customer. God is the master and we are the laborers. We are not our own, we were bought at the price of Christ’s blood. We have no life apart from the life Christ gave to us when he conquered our death. We have nothing to offer God that He doesn’t already own outright.
  • Don’t forget what God has promised or expect things that He never promised. The laborers were promised a denarius for their work just like Ray was promised “if you build it, he will come.” Neither were promised more, but both became indignant when they saw what others got. God’s Word is filled with promises, none of which say that life will be easy, you’ll get everything you want, or God owes you anything. However all of His promises are given freely through Christ and are more than we deserve.
  • Don’t forget who we’ve been asked to follow. Jesus didn’t ask the disciples to believe in Him, He asked them to follow Him. Jesus was a man who defended the temple and defended Truth to the religious leaders. Today being Good Friday, can you think of a time where Jesus defended himself? Jesus was God on earth and had the power to do anything he wished. Meanwhile He experienced the most painful death in the history of the world when he didn’t deserve it…why didn’t he defend himself? Answer: You.

Matthew 16:24-28 says, 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

That’s what’s in it for you.