Coach-Pitch Baseball and a Fascinating View of God

Servants of Excellence

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1BaseballKid

The other day I was tasked with keeping the scorebook for my son’s 8-Under baseball game, where the coaches pitch, the ball gets tossed all over the place and somehow, the umpires keep track of it all.

Keeping the scorebook is not difficult in this league. It’s a chore in “real” baseball, because scorers must track “official” hits, decide on errors, describe every out in detail (but with numbers only) and more stuff I can’t fully explain.

For instance, if a major league player hits the ball to the third baseman who bobbles the ball before making a throw and the runner reaches first, it’s scored E5 (Error on the 3rd Baseman). In our league, if all ten (we need an extra) players in the field throw the ball over each other’s heads for 15 minutes and the runner—exhausted—finally reaches home, it’s a home run. Easy peasy.

My job as a scorer then, was simple. All I had to do was track who made outs, and whether a kid got around the bases for a run. That’s it. No errors, no fancy scoring. If at the end of the game my book matched the score book for the other team, all was good. No nuance in this league, believe me.

Sure, when errors are made, the kids are corrected. But we’re not tracking this stuff. We’re just happy they are out there. We’re happy they are playing.

Our game is about encouragement, hits and scoring. And even the word “hit” can have a different definition. Heck, when my kid hits the ball, we’re cheering whether he is safe at first or headed back to the dugout.

One night, the only time he connected with the ball it rolled a few feet into foul territory. He told me later, “I got one hit tonight!” Good enough for me. We’re flexible in 8U baseball.

Which tells me something about God. If we—being the somewhat decent parents we are—are such encouragers, what about God?

Sometimes we see Him as a taskmaster, recording our sins and constantly chiding us for our failings. It’s as if we see Him with a score book, noting nothing but errors and—to take Isaiah 64:6 out of context—seeing anything good we accomplish as nothing but “filthy rags” in His sight.

Yes, we make errors. And a good parent gently corrects a child who makes a mistake—either in the field or in life. But we don’t spend much time keeping track. We focus on the good, celebrating those times when our child hits the ball or performs an unselfish act.

Maybe God is more like a good parent than we realize. Perhaps He is cheering us on, even amongst our errors, urging us to “Go!” and change our world.

One kid on our team cries every time he doesn’t make it to first base. His head drops, he drags his bat back to the dugout and then collapses on the bench in agony. Each time this happens, a coach tries to cheer him up and get him “back in the game.” Almost always, it works.

What about us? Do we focus on our failings?

Perhaps God focuses more on our scoring than on any errors we make. When He closes the book on our day, it may be true that we bobbled the ball of life and threw it the wrong direction. He will correct this at the appropriate time. But I wonder if He turns to His Son at His right hand and says, “Wow, he sure hit the ball on that one play, didn’t he?”

And maybe, like an 8U baseball parent, He smiles.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

It’s Never the Wrong Time to do the Right Thing

Servants of FaithLuke611

But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus—Luke 6:11

We know wherever Jesus went, many loved him and followed. But some—almost always the cultural and religious leaders—despised him no matter what he did.

In the verse above, the scribes and Pharisees in the synagogue were filled with rage because Jesus did the unthinkable, healing a man’s withered hand . . . on the Sabbath. How dare Jesus do such a thing? Couldn’t he have waited until Sunday?

No, Jesus could not wait. He had a point to make. Over the years, those in charge of all things religious had been adding to the law of God, creating extra rules regarding what it meant to “keep the Sabbath holy.” These rules were relatively easy for those in authority to keep; they didn’t have to worry much about tending flocks, finding food and getting oxen out of ditches.

But for those under their religious authority, keeping all the man-made Sabbath rules was an incredible burden.

Jesus then, asked a question when he saw the man with the withered hand. “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do harm, to save a life, or to destroy it?”

Like every one of Jesus’ questions, this was a good one. It boxed the religious leaders in a corner, pointing out the hypocrisy of their thinking.

Therefore, they were “filled with rage.” To Jesus, it was not surprising to see leaders of his own culture angry with him. He appealed to normal people, and this was too much for them to stomach.

Today, it’s no different. In our culture the “leaders” are those who preach to us about what we must think and how we must behave. They are in Hollywood, the media, and some are in the political realm. They tell us we are to bow down to gods like “choice” and “tolerance.”

Over time, these leaders created their own commandments; commandments which seek to impede—or even stop us from reaching those who need all of us in the pregnancy help community. According to these commandments, we are to cease talking about faith. And, we must desist from speaking honestly about the wonder of human life.

As those who serve in the pregnancy help community, we understand the opposition Jesus faced. Like him, we ask ourselves, “Is it lawful in our society to do good? To save a life?”

Our answer is always “Yes.” Because just like Jesus, we realize there is never a wrong time and never a wrong situation . . . to do good.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

By Faith, Rahab Changes Human History

Servants of ExcellenceRahab

“By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.”
Hebrews 11:31

We all probably know the story of Rahab the harlot. As a quick refresher, Joshua sent spies into the city of Jericho to check out the city Israel was to conquer. Rahab, a woman of ill repute, took in the spies and when the King’s men asked her to turn them over, she hid Joshua’s men in her attic. Then, she lied to the king’s men, telling them the spies “went thataway!” Off the king’s men went, never finding the spies.

A short time later, the army of Israel marched around Jericho for six days. On the seventh, they blew the trumpets and the walls fell.

Rahab’s faith—a belief that the spies were men of God—saved her and her family. This led to a series of amazing events.

Here’s a question: “What would have happened if Rahab obeyed her king instead of taking her step of faith?”

The quick answer is, “Well, God would have worked it out another way.” Maybe this is correct. But we don’t know this.

What we do know is; a woman who was likely at the absolute bottom of the social ladder, who was likely mocked by the very men who accessed her services, who was labeled in the most hurtful way . . . suddenly faced a choice and an opportunity.

She could choose to obey the authority she knew (her king), or she could choose the God she did not know. She decided on a leap of faith.

Hundreds of years later, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews still called her “Rahab the harlot.” So no, she didn’t lose her label. But she did gain entrance into what we now call, “The Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.

Rahab’s choice led to the conquering of Jericho. Which led to Israel’s rise as a nation. Rahab’s choice also led her to marry Salmon, which led to the birth of Boaz. Boaz married Ruth, one of only two women to have books of the Bible named after them. Rahab, Ruth and others created the generational line leading to the mighty King David. And King David led to . . . Jesus.

One choice. Just one. By a woman with everything stacked against her. 

Two thoughts to keep in mind.

One, the clients and patients who come in our door may have everything stacked against them. But one choice—just one—can change everything. Let’s always remember this.

Two, what about us? We all wonder at times, “Can God work through me?” I don’t write the following to diminish Rahab, but her being labeled a harlot is a lesson that God uses the unlikely. Regardless of our pasts--whether better or worse than Rahab’s--God seeks those who will seize the opportunities He gives.

Rahab seized her opportunity and her moment of faith changed the scope of human history. Why can’t this happen when the unlikely person walks in our door? And why can’t this happen with us, his unlikely servants?


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

NOT MY MONKEYS CIRCUS

Servants of Excellence

“Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the father . . . but an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the father in spirit and in truth . . . .” John 4: 21-23

There’s a Polish proverb which millennials often use today: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” It’s a way of saying, “Don’t drag me into your drama and your issues—I’m not getting involved.”

My daughter used this phrase once and it captured me, because Jesus used this thinking often. The Samaritan Woman at the well in John 4 is a perfect example. We know the story; when Jesus asks the woman to call her husband, she says, “I have no husband.”

And what does Jesus say to this? He tells her something he would not be expected to know; that she has had five husbands and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. Stunned I’m sure, she responds, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”

Let’s pause for a moment and say collectively, “No kidding!”

She goes on however: “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain and you people (Jews) say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”

Jesus response? In the words of the Polish proverb, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” In John 4:21-23 he cuts right to the heart of the matter, saying it doesn’t matter where we worship; it matters who and how we worship.

I love it. Jesus never got sucked in to religious debates on non-essential issues. He was about one thing: Reconciling men and women with his father. To Jesus, peripheral matters were a waste of time.

When we reach out to those who enter our centers, clinics and maternity homes, we can count on faith questions. But just like the Samaritan Woman, many of these questions will be peripheral, such as “Do you believe in this doctrine? Do you believe a Christian can do this? That?”

Most of the time, those seeking answers to peripheral issues want to find a dividing point; a way to say, “You don’t believe like me, so I won’t listen to you.”

If we wish to reach others with the love of Christ, our mission begins by finding the heart of the matter, like Jesus did. A few moments after the Woman at the Well asked her non-essential question, Jesus’ response—piercing her heart—led her to say, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that one comes, he will declare all things to us.”

Aha. Jesus prodded her to something new, something bigger than her “where do we worship?” question.

Then, Jesus said, “I who speak to you am he.”

Wow. All because Jesus found the heart of the matter. For Jesus, the “where to worship” argument was “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” And within minutes, a heart was changed.

It’s a good lesson for us. Let’s seek the wisdom to lovingly say, “Not my circus, not my monkeys” to some of the questions we are asked—and seek the heart of the matter. For someone searching for true answers, it can make all the difference in the world.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

Servants Sometimes Dismiss ‘Common Sense,’ and That’s Okay

Servants of Excellencepaul on trial

“Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” Acts 21:13

Paul was a man on a mission, headed for Jerusalem—even when common sense stood in the way. In Acts 21 we see the story of Paul’s travels and a couple of uncommon occurrences. First, in Acts 21:4 the disciples warn Paul (through the spirit of God, no less) not to set foot in Jerusalem.

Yet, Paul appears to ignore this counsel, instead moving toward that very city, stopping in Caesarea to stay with Philip the evangelist. While there, we have our second uncommon occurrence: A prophet, Agabus, came from Judea. He took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands saying, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”

Those gathered did what any of us would likely do; they begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12). Common sense, right? How many times did God have to make this clear?

Everything added up perfectly. Paul’s response then, should have been, “I’ll stay right here with you folks; Jerusalem is off my list of destinations.”

But Paul decided to go anyway. Some might read this and say, “This was Paul’s mistake.” Maybe they are right.

Perhaps however, Paul was being given a choice. Knowing danger awaited in Jerusalem, he could choose the common-sense path and avoid persecution. Or, he could go forward in service to Christ, knowing exactly what was ahead.

Agabus’ prophecy proved correct. In Jerusalem, Paul was dragged from the temple, beaten and bound with chains (Acts 21:30-33).

Yet something else happened in Jerusalem, too. Jews and Gentiles alike were encouraged through Paul’s visit there. In addition, the good news flourished, even as Paul experienced incarceration and several trials.

In our lives and in our work, sometimes all the arrows appear to point toward a common-sense decision. Sometimes, those arrows are correct. But we need to at least leave room for uncommon-sense decisions which appear to fly in the face of conventional wisdom.

We must also be aware that “uncommon” decisions can lead to trial. We might lose something—as Paul lost a portion of his freedom—through an uncommon-sense decision.

Biblical historians may argue over whether Paul made the right choice, but we can know this: Paul’s decision was based on a desire to serve his master, and to take the good news message anywhere it was needed—no matter the personal cost. Because of Paul’s decision to think in terms of serving, God continued to use him in a mighty way.

When we find our work has a cost, we can take heart. We may not always make the correct decision, but we can know that if our heart is one of servanthood, God can work through us in ways we cannot imagine.

Am I Hearing “Quickly?”

Servants of Excellence

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” QuicktoHear
James 1:19

We’ve been told countless times how we should be “slow to speak and slow to anger,” as James writes. Many of us have been taught to “count to ten” before we speak, so that we won’t be driven by impulse and say the wrong thing.

This is important wisdom we should live by each day.

And yet, there is something else in James’ exhortation to his readers: an admonition to be “quick to hear.” It’s an interesting use of words, isn’t it? For how can we hear “quickly?”

As we know, James is not talking about jumping to conclusions on what we are hearing, or listening “fast” so we can get it over with. Perhaps James wants us to focus in on those we are listening to, saying to ourselves, “What this person is about to say is important to me. They need my undivided attention, and quick-like.”

Too often we can find ourselves “waiting to speak” instead of stopping to truly listen. Because of this, we have miscommunication, which can lead to frustration, division and anger. But when we are “quick” to listen, we set aside our desire to create a retort and instead wait patiently to hear the core of what our friend is saying.

James is a practical writer. Later in his letter he will tell us how faith must lead to actions on our part, or it is not faith at all.

In this short excerpt, James wants us to know faith leads to listening with our whole heart. When we choose to listen with all we have—and choose to focus on our speaker in a hurry—many potential problems are averted.

As we serve those we see, let’s be quick to listen. We might hear a heart which is open to the love and faith we offer.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

“Outsiders” are an Opportunity

Servants of ExcellenceColossians

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”
Colossians 4:5

When we see attacks on pregnancy help ministries by those who oppose us, our first reaction can be to fight back, and sometimes we must do those things necessary to repel these onslaughts.

For instance, when we see false reviews of our ministries on Facebook, Google and Yelp we must set the record straight. It’s unfair not just to us, but to our potential patients and clients, when a false review deters them from seeking our services.

And yet Paul, in wisdom that can only come from the Lord, writes that we must “conduct ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders . . .” Outsiders are those outside of the faith, like so many who work with the abortion industry.

Wisdom dictates that in our communication with these outsiders, we must, as Paul says, make “the most of the opportunity.” Where we see a threat—and it is—Paul sees something greater; an opportunity.

When attacks come, we have an opportunity to do so many things: We can show the world how Christians best respond to attacks, shining the light of Christ in a dark world. We can show our clients and patients we are never deterred and always looking out for their best interests.

In addition, we can show the abortion industry—the very group attacking us—that we will not cower but will choose to advance as we love those who come in our door.

Every outsider, whether a client, patient or even one who wishes to tear us down, is an opportunity. When we begin to look at each person or each situation as an opportunity instead of as a trial, we find the wisdom we need to reach out with love, compassion and strength.

So, who is coming in the door today? Is it someone with a problem? Or is this someone who presents an opportunity to show the love of Christ?

Paul had the wisdom to find opportunities in all situations, whether in a jail with Silas in Acts 16 when they sang and a miracle took place, or in front of kings, as he shared his message. Paul was an ordinary person with an extraordinary message.

And that makes us . . . just like Paul. Let’s look for opportunities. We never know what God might do.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

Never Overlook the Obvious

Servants of ExcellenceLoveOneAnother

“By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

 

One of the easiest answers in the Bible is found when we pose the question, “How can I show others my faith?”

While there are a variety of characteristics a Christian might display—including the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control)—there is one salient attribute the outside world will never overlook: Love for one another.

Jesus’ words in John 13:35 often wind up on our refrigerators, in memes on the internet and on tee shirts. But here’s a question: Do we really get it?

I’ll be the first to admit, I enjoy digging around in scripture to find powerful truths and unique ways to highlight these thoughts. But in the middle of reading, studying and writing on these subjects, am I taking the time to love those who share this faith with me?

Am I making it the priority in my life to love my fellow believers so that others will know—without a doubt—we are all Christians, faithfully following Jesus Christ?

There are evangelism courses all over the place. There are writings on topics relating to defining our faith, sharing our faith and defending our faith. These are all good, and important. No question about it.

But I must ask the question of myself: Is living my faith by loving my fellow followers the key focus of my faith? Or is “the love thing” simply a sweet ditty of Jesus; a nice thing to hear, or a good subject for an occasional devotional?

Just before speaking the words above Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Do I take this command to heart so strongly that I truly believe our love for each other is all we need to identify ourselves to a hurting world?

Because if I believe “love for one another” will make everyone see the power and the impact of our faith, I also understand the first logical step in reaching more people with the message of Good News Jesus offered is . . . love.

“Love one another” is more than icing on the Christian cake. It is the nourishment which fuels a healthy body of Christ. When we love, we create a powerful, engaging incentive for those outside of the faith to say, “Can I join, too?”


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

Who does Jesus trust to reveal himself?

Servants of ExcellenceWomanattheWell

The woman said to him, “I know that messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when that one comes he will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
John 4:25-26

Before his interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4, Jesus referred to himself as the “son of man” and as the son of God. While we understand the meaning and power of these terms today, if we read Jesus’ first references to himself, those listening might not have captured their importance.

For instance, God referred to the prophet Ezekiel as “son of man” on many occasions. And the Israelite people saw themselves as children of God, so “son of God” could have had multiple meanings without full context.

The point here is that early in his ministry, few if any fully realized who Jesus was. Except for a woman of Samaria; a woman with a checkered past, drawing water from a well outside of her city.

Remember, the Jewish people were eagerly awaiting their messiah, the Christ. In their minds, this messiah would usher in a new kingdom. They were right that the messiah will rule a coming kingdom; they didn’t understand this kingdom would not come immediately.

Who would Jesus tell first that he was the messiah for whom all of Israel was waiting? Would he tell a religious leader? One of his disciples? A power broker in the Roman Empire?

None of the above.

In a quiet, one-on-one conversation, Jesus chose a woman who was likely called many names for her improprieties with men. With her, he spoke directly, saying, “I who speak to you am he.”

This woman didn’t have to answer carefully-crafted questions, or work through parables. Instead, Jesus was direct and forthright. And her entire life changed. Suddenly she was telling those in her community about this man who she believed to be sent from God to save the people.

The result? “And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’” (John 4:39)

Those entering the door to a pregnancy help ministry appear—at least to most—to be the most unlikely to spread the gospel message. Sure, many applaud us for reaching out to these with checkered stories. But they don’t think much change will take place. Perhaps we don’t, either.

Yet we must keep in mind, this is who Jesus chose first. Because he did, the good news of the kingdom of God took off in a Samaritan city.

Apparently, Jesus gave hope to a Samaritan woman. We can do the same. And when we do, we never know how far that hope might spread.

 

Lord, Today I Ask for . . . Courage

Servants of Excellenceprayerhands

“And grant that your bond servants may speak your word with all confidence.” Acts 4:29B

At many of our ministries we start the day with prayer. We may do so individually, or in a group as the early church in Acts 4. Few of us face the situation they confronted, but even today we would be wise to pray as they did.

Setting the context, the religious leadership arrested Peter and John for the “sin” of healing a lame beggar and following up the miracle by preaching the good news message. After a quick convocation amongst themselves, they ordered the two apostles to stop preaching—immediately.

Peter and John’s answer? “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

Once released, the two reported to their friends that heavy persecution could be on the way.

The early church’s response was to pray.

Let’s note first what they did not pray for. They did not pray for the Lord to halt their enemies, nor did they pray for safety. Or even for positive responses to their message.

Are any of these reasons to pray somehow “wrong?” Not at all. There may be times to pray for each of these outcomes.

Yet in this situation the early church, knowing they would face beatings, imprisonment or death, asked of God, “Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that your bond-servants may speak your word with all confidence, while you will extend your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.”

They did not ask for escape, but for boldness and confidence.

What a powerful example they set for us. When we pray before beginning our day, may the Lord give us the confidence to speak clearly, in love, to impart God’s truth to every situation. This is the boldness of the first followers, a boldness which literally changed the world.

When they finished praying together, “the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”

God answered their prayer. When we pray for confidence, we can expect God to answer us as well.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist 

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