Tigers

Just for fun, I thought I would share my 2011 MLB Postseason predictions.

ALDS
Detroit beats New York 3-1

Tampa Bay beats Texas 3-2

* Home-field advantage will be no advantage

NLDS
Philadelphia beats St. Louis 3-0

Milwaukee beats Arizona 3-1

* Pitching over hitting every time

ALCS
Detroit over Tampa Bay 4-2
* Reality sets in

NLCS
Philadelphia over Milwaukee 4-1
* The bullpen is the real question in this series

WORLD SERIES
Detroit defeats Philadelphia 4-3
* I am in the minority here – but the Tigers are the most well-rounded team in baseball. So much can go wrong and other elements will go oh so right.

Now, for who I actually WANT to win…
* Detroit over New York (small market against the Great Satan)
* Tampa Bay over Texas (Rays are a shining light in the AL East)
* Is there a way for BOTH teams to lose? As a Dodgers fan, I still have a grudge against the Phillies AND the Cards. Okay, Cards – just because they will be beat eventually anyways
* Milwaukee over Arizona (go Seattle Pilots!)
* Pennants should go to the Brewers and Tigers.
* Brewers all of the way. Attention Dodgers, please find a way to sign Fielder. He is fun to watch. Or, if the Cards lose in first round – PUJOLS. Power-hitting first baseman, please!

Tigers

Beggar

The Bible reads, “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:1-10, ESV).

Miracles are for today. I hold fast to Jesus as Healer (as well as Savior, Baptizer, and Returning King) as a Pentecostal Christ Follower. But I don’t stop there. Miracles are also for the marketplace. We have, in a sense, hijacked one of the greatest gifts that God has entrusted to us and hoarded it all to ourselves.

Jesus performed most of his miracles in the real world. Not in the synagogue or in the temple. But in front of and on behalf of those who needed the touch the most. In fact, most of the individuals healed would not be able to be allowed into those places based solely on their illness or injury alone. So he brought restoration. He gave a sign and a wonder that pointed to the cross and empty tomb. A preview of what was about to come.

And so it was with Peter. He prayed in faith. By Christ’s authority. Not his. And then he did what we rarely do – he explained it. Word and deed. He connected the dots so that there was no doubt that Jesus was alive and his Way was The Way.

So what do we most often do? Sure, most of us believe that God heals. We very much want to believe that he can and will heal us. But the emphasis is far too often on us. Our church prayer lines are made up of our needs – or at least those who are closest to us. But what about the neighbor who does not yet know Christ does heal, let alone exist? What if we pray for others more than we pray for ourselves? What if we pray for others as the church instead of while we are at church?

Miracles are for today.

Beggar

Control

One of our youth ministry interns, Kenneth Priest, concluded our series on fear by tackling the topic of losing control – the thought that we can do so much more with our lives than God can.

The Bible reads, “Now the LORD said to Samuel, ‘You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king'” (1 Samuel 16:1, NLT).

Saul tried to hold on to the throne with all that he had. If only he had more military battles. If only he made all the right (or wrong) sacrifices. If only he was able to kill all of the competition. But what he failed to realize was that he did nothing to deserve the crown. He was chosen. An act of grace. He was never in control…and he could do nothing to stay in control.

Then there is David. He had every opportunity to TAKE power. But he waited. And he even mourned the day that the power was taken away from another man – even when that man fully deserved the punishment (not to mention that this was the very man who tried to kill him to begin with).

So in what ways have I fooled myself into believing that I am in control? What are some of the things I hold on to and actually have begun to believe that I can hold on to them as long as I want?

And what would my life really look like if I was willing and able to fully surrender to Christ’s leadership? If he was in complete control of my life?

Control

Wait

The Bible reads, “So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven'” (Acts 1:6-10, ESV).

There needs to be moments in my life where I intentionally step back and wait. Where I stop and pray. Where I ask God what he wants. Not what I want or need. But what he wants. What is needed for the Mission. Where I recommit to his plans and purposes. Where I am reminded of who Christ is and what Christ has done and where Christ is going. That the Acts of the disciples are really the Acts of the Holy Spirit – and the Spirit is sent by Jesus Christ. Where I hear him speak. Where he reminds me of the task at hand – as overwhelming as it may be. That I am to trust him and obey him no matter the cost. Where I realize that there is no way that I am able to do such things without his empowerment. Without is presence. Without the person of the Holy Spirit. And that all such signs lead to Christ. But I need a sign nonetheless. Where he says it is time. Where he says, “Go.”

This is why we pray. To hear more than to speak. To know his heart more than to make our requests known.

But is this why we pray most of the time? Often we ask him to do all that he can do – in hopes that we don’t have to do anything at all? Many times we know the answer – we just don’t like what the answer entails for us. Maybe there are far too many moments where we pray and pray and pray…but never get up and actually go.

Make no mistake…going without praying is foolish. But praying and not going might be even more dangerous.

Wait

Exponential

I just finished Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson’s “Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement.” This book is truly one the best I have read on church multiplication. One of my favorite chapters was on the importance of “Reproducing Leaders” (if you can’t reproduce yourself then how will you even begin to reproduce a church?

The authors propose that there are twelve indicators that leadership is lacking…
1) I wait for someone to tell me what to do rather than taking the initiative myself: I love what Mark Batterson teaches (and and area I need to grow in) – Go. Set. Ready.
2) I spend too much time talking about how things should be different: There is a time to stop talking and to start acting. Do something.
3) I blame the context, surroundings, or other people for my current situation: Take ownership.
4) I am more concerned about being cool or accepted than doing the right thing: Stop thinking so much about what others will think.
5) I seek consensus rather than casting vision for a preferable future: What good are big dreams if never acted on?
6) I am not taking any significance risks: Did Jesus really mean what he said? I am I doing what he said to do?
7) I accept the status quo as the way it’s always been and always will be: There has to be a better way.
8) I start protecting my reputation instead of opening myself up to opposition: Character is all that I need to guard.
9) I procrastinate to avoid making a tough call: There is a time to pull the trigger. And there is no looking back.
10) I talk to others about the problem rather than taking it to the person responsible: Build a team. Bring a solution.
11) I don’t feel like my butt is on the line for anything significant: Make your life count.
12) I ask for way too many opinions before taking action: Do I ask God what he wants of my life?

The Apostle Paul writes, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:1-7, ESV).

Paul mentored Timothy. Timothy mentored others. Why should it be any different for us?

Exponential

Incarnational

Our lead pastor, David Brakke, launched a new series today at Maltby Christian Assembly based on Timothy Keller’s bestseller titled “The Prodigal God.” He reminded us of the context behind the parables in Luke 15. Jesus was talking directly to religious leaders. The elite believed that their identity as God’s people was based on what they did do and what they did not do. And they expected everyone else to do the same. Anything less than that was unacceptable. The Pharisees demanded holiness – but holiness looked more like them than the God they claimed to follow.

Jesus came to correct such thinking – such living. He reminded his audience that it was not about our search – but God’s search for us. Little did they know, God never gave up his search. He even went as far as to come in the flesh – in fact, he was staring them directly in the face. The sheep was lost due to foolishness. The coin gone because of thoughtlessness. The boy away all because of rebelliousness. But none of that was enough to detract Jesus Christ from his mission – he was bound and determined that the Story end in celebration.

Jesus warns, ‘What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today. And he answered, I will not, but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, I go, sir, but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him'” (Matthew 21:28-32).

And finally, as it relates to the stories that Jesus told, Pastor David poses the question, “Which character do you most relate with?” The lost? The leadership? Why?

Are we the types of individuals who just can’t believe that Jesus would want to share company with such irreligious people? Or are we a bit more subtle in our self-righteousness? We say that Jesus loves such people – but we don’t have to ourselves. Or we aim to love them once they pledge to a life of holiness – or at least to a life that looks like the one that we live.

It is time that we do exactly what God did for us. We go to them. We share life with them. We extend the grace that they don’t deserve – because we did not deserve it either. And nothing can detract us from that mission.

Incarnational

Involved

Nearly as many prophecies are recorded in Scripture during the exile as before it. Isn’t it interesting that God stayed so intimately involved in the lives of the Chosen People during their disciplinary period?

The Bible reads, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego” (Daniel 1:1-7, ESV).

He still spoke to them. He was still leading them. He was still loving them. He was still putting them in places where they were able to know him, be known by him, and make him known to others. One could even argue that people like Daniel were able to have even MORE influence for his Kingdom than if they were still living in Israel. Speaking of Kingdom, it is pretty obvious that his Kingdom was bigger than one piece of land, one lineage of leadership, and one revelation of his Law. Even with Israel split and scattered, God was very much in control.

So don’t lose hope in times of discipline. He speaks to people even when they are giving him the silent treatment. Do not lose hope in people when they seem buried by the consequences of their rebellion. Stay with them. Seek out what God is saying and doing – and be a part of the restoration. He saves us in ways far beyond our own imaginations.

Involved