Tuesday Sports Short: When the 2nd inning is too late

Have you ever had that dream where you are supposed to be somewhere important, then you look down at the clock and realize you are late? Then comes the revelation that you are in your PJ’s. Add Atlanta traffic, a language barrier, and one confused pitcher and you have the story of Pascual Perez.

On August 19th, 1982 the Atlanta Braves called up Perez from the minor leagues. The animated Dominican born pitcher was soon to become a fan favorite in Atlanta. And it was all supposed to start against the Montreal Expos. He was penciled in as Atlanta’s starting pitcher.

That same day the 25-year-old, who spoke little English, had qualified for his Georgia driver’s license. On top of the World with a new license in hand and a major league debut at hand Perez began his commute to the Ball Park. However, as he tried to navigate his way around the Atlanta area he got lost. Perez drove around, and around, and around…

Three times Perez circled Atlanta on I-285 each time missing the exit for old Fulton County Stadium. He drove for so long that he actually ran out of Gas. Realizing that he had no money, he convinced a gas station attendant to loan him 10$.

Finally Perez made it to the Stadium, and just in time to see the 2nd inning. In his stead, Atlanta legend Phil Niekro was called on to pitch. Niekro, with his knuckleball, won the game. The following night Perez finally made his Big League Debut. He made it to the park on time, pitched all the way into the 10th inning, and won 2-1.

Perez’s teammates never let him live down the incident. In a manner typical to rookie hazing the Braves made every effort to make sure that no one else would ever forget the start that never was. The Braves players presented Perez with a brand new warm-up jacket to use for the rest of the season. The back of the jacket read: “I-285.”


Our Good and Gracious God: James 1:18

It is clear that God has not brought about this ugly cycle of sin and death (vs15). In fact, By His will the opposite has been made possible. Here we have an even better example of God’s goodness. God’s gift of salvation is even better than the “dome of the heavens.” James is not really speaking of our creation, but rather our re-creation. Through the work of Christ we can be regenerated, and made anew. Our regeneration is a very real part of our salvation. In Ezekiel 36:25-26 we see what regeneration is:

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

Finally, through God’s grace, we can live the way God intended for us to live from the very beginning. Here James has given us the remedy to our sin problem.

Do you want to stop the cycle of sin in your life? Do you want to live the way that God created you to live? Do you want to be made anew? The remedy is God’s Word of Truth. The word of truth is the means that God uses to regenerate us. But what is this word of truth? It is the Gospel, the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. God’s will is not to tempt man unto evil; rather God’s will is to regenerate man through the work of Christ so that man can resist evil. We must not excuse sin, and place the blame for sin somewhere other than ourselves. This will only leave us vulnerable to further sin. Our sin-prone heart must be acknowledged. It is when we acknowledge this sin that we will finally depend upon God’s grace. And through this grace God will bring forth in us a new life where sin no longer rules unbridled, and where glorious life not death is the prospect.

God made all of this available to us through his will. Remember, God does not change, nor can anything change him. It was by His will, not influenced by anything (including works), that He chose to save us. God acted freely to save us from our own sin. And so if God providing for the lilies, and the birds was not proof enough to you that God is good then this should be. God freely choosing to save us is completely inconsistent with him tempting us to evil. The seed of sin and death is found in man’s desires. The seed of righteousness is found in God’s word.James tells us that God is working for our salvation so that we might be a kind of first fruits. That leaves us with a couple of questions. What are first fruits, and how are we first fruits? In the Old Testament God established this system of first fruits. In Deuteronomy 18:4we see this law:

You shall give him the first fruits of your grain, your new wine, and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep.

The Israelites were to give the first fruits from their yearly crop as a sacrifice to the Lord. The first fruits were usually the best crops, and would serve as an indicator of what the rest of the crops would be like. Do you see what God was doing? The people were to give those first fruits to God to show that new that these first fruits were from God, and that they were just the first installment of what God would provide for them.

But how are we the first fruits among what is created (NASB translates this as “creatures,” but it could also be “what is created.”)? We are as excellent as the first fruits because God’s image has been renewed in us. If we have identified ourselves through faith with Christ then when God looks at us He sees Christ’s righteous sin sacrifice instead of our unrighteous sin. And so we have become the first fruits among all that is created. There are a couple ways that we can interpret what James is saying here. First, the Jews to whom James was writing were some of the first Christian. They were the first installment of God’s new Creation, the Church. In the second way that we can interpret what James is saying all Christians are the first fruits. We as Christians are the first phase in God’s re-creation, and ultimately God is working to re-create the heavens and the earth. Our salvation has been assured of, but it has not been completed. We await our ultimate adoption, and the redemption of these sin cursed bodies. And Romans 8:23 tells us that we can be assured that this will happen because we have already received the first fruits of the Spirit. The existing manifestation of the Spirit in our lives is only a first fruit in comparison with what shall be in eternity. We know that Christ is returning, and that he will complete the re-creation that He has begun in us. Look at what Paul says in Philippians 1:6:

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.

God is coming to finish the work, and we cannot even begin to fathom the greatness of this work.The God who is redeeming creation is a gracious God. Such a gracious God is incapable of sin, and is not leading his people into sin. Rather, God is providing us with good and perfect gifts so that we might be preserved until the end; so that we stand approved before God despite our sin; so that we might be just the beginning of the redeeming work that God is doing in creation. God is the potter and He is trying to mold you into a useful tool for His work, will you let him do that work. Or are you going to blame him for your failure?

The Father of Lights: James 1:17

James 1:17

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

James does not want us to be fooled. He does not want us to get in the midst of a trial and loose sight of who God is. Remember, God sends trials into the life of a believer as a holy work meant for sanctification. Yet, because of our sin we are tempted to doubt God in the midst of a trial. And even more, we are prone to blame God for out situation (1:13). This is what James is guarding against.

Rather than blame God for temptation, we should carefully examine our situation. When we start to look around we will soon realize that God did not cause us to be tempted, but He did provide a remedy for our temptation. James uses two different adjective to describe God’s gifts: good and perfect. These two adjectives distinguish to two aspects of God’s gifts. God’s gifts are good in that they are useful and beneficial. And God’s gifts are perfect in that they are complete and lacking nothing to meet the needs of the recipient. All of this can be found in God. Even a trial is good. A trial can be useful in our lives, and when God sends us a trial it is completely the trial that we need in our lives.
Christ spoke of the goodness of the Father in Matthew chapter 6.

Matthew 6:27-34 27 :

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

If God feeds the birds of the air, and clothes the lilies of the field shouldn’t that be enough to prove to us that He is a good God. It is when we understand that God is a good God that we can seek HIs kingdom first. God makes so much available to us, and yet we still try to blame Him when we do not take advantage of His grace. We must see that the work that God has done in this world from the smallest speck of dust, to Christ’s death on the cross is good. God’s gifts are marked by kindness, and helpfulness. God’s gifts prove that He is a good God, not a destructive God.God is the Father of lights. The Father of lights was an ancient Jewish title for God. Lights referred to the heavenly (i.e. sun, moon, and stars) lights (But not only is God the creator and sustainer of the heavenly lights, he is also the Father of spiritual light. 1 John says that there is no darkness in his at all. In God all perfection, and righteousness is fully illuminated, and there are no shadows of sin.). God is called the Father of heavenly lights to show His excellence and highness, but James continues the metaphor so that we may not measure the greatness of God by the brightness of the heavenly lights. He is the Father of the heavenly lights, but more than that he is better than the heavenly lights. As the creator and sustainer of the lights he is not to be identified as equal to them. James says that there is “no variation or shifting shadow” in God. The sun may move or be blocked from our view by the earth, but God never changes. The moon may be eclipsed by the earth, but there is nothing that can change God. He is the eternal source of perfect light. James says all of this (God neither changes nor is changed) to remind us that God will always be the giver of good gifts. God is the Father of the heavenly lights, but unlike the shifting shadows that are created by the sun, moon, and stars God does not change. God is always the giver of good gifts, and nothing is able to change that. People may fail to see God’s wisdom and even accuse God for their own failings, but God will always be the giver of good gifts who cannot be blamed for man’s evil.

As I read this verse in James I cannot help but sing to myself the wonderful hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness:”

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest no, thy compassions they fail not;

As Though hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by Morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me!

Don’t be fooled: James 1:16

James 1:16

“Do not be decieved, my beloved brethren.”

There are a lot of things that the World tells us about God, don’t be fooled. God is not what the world makes him out to be. As we can clearly see in the previous verses God is not to blame for our temptation. When God sends a trial into our lives we cannot blame Him when, by our own lust, we are tempted to doubt him. God sent the trial to do a holy work in us, but we turned what God meant for good into an opportunity for sin. God is not the author of this rebellion.

James’ warning here, “do not be deceived,” is a warning against viewing God as the author of our temptation to sin. To harbor this false conception that God is tempting us (working to bring sin into our lives) is to cast a grave suspicion on God’s holy character. The world is telling us that it is not our fault when we sin. They want us to leave the responsibility for our sins on the shoulders of someone else, and eventually God (this was Adam’s course of action in the Garden). And why? So that they can do the same thing. Do not let the world around you shape your view of God. Look at what Luke 21:8 says:

“And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them.”

The world’s view of God is so skewed that they can not even recognize the Savior. Do not be fooled. Rather, let Scripture shape your view of God.

When we look to Scripture to see who God is we see a very different God than the god the world sees. In Scripture we see the God of goodness. We see the God who created the world, and the God who is working for our redemption. This is the focus of James in verse 17 and 18 of this chapter:

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”

God is the good God of creation, and re-creation. The root of our sin-problem does not lie with God. The root of our sin problem lies within. Our sin problem begins with our sinful heart, and its desire to seek satisfaction in sin rather than God. The problem is that instead of glorying in the innumerable blessings, which we receive daily from God, we seek satisfaction elsewhere. Let us stop this sinful circle and be so affected by God’s goodness that we can think of nothing but his Glory.

In the next couple of days we will look at James 1:17-18 to follow James’ encouragement further.


Tuesday Sports Short: “The Strangest Scorecard Ever”

For those of you who have ever kept score at a baseball game try this one on for size.

Dale Holman was at one time a top minor-league player. Holman played for numerous teams, and was never able to establish himself as a big-league ball player. Holman, the eternal prospect, always hit well at every level of the minors. Every year teams would talk about Holman, but all of his potenial never materialized. Why you ask would anyone care about Dale Holman? Well, Holman is the central figure of one baseball’s most unusual stories.

On June 30th, 1986 Holman was playing for the Syracuse Chiefs, then the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Chiefs were playing the Richmond Braves (In a game that the NCAA executives would not approve of), the AAA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, in an International league game. Early in the game Holman came up to bat, and with two men on base laced a double that would plate both runs. A short time later the game was suspended and scheduled to be completed at a later date.

Following that nights game, in appreciation for his 2 RBI’s, Holman was released. Holman was then signed by, you guessed it, the Richmond Braves.

Several day later, when the game was scheduled to be completed, Holman was inserted into the outfield to complete the game as a Brave. Holman would single and double in his 2 trips to the plate for the Braves that night. When the final Box Score was compiled, it showed a very rare statistical oddity: Dale Holman had collected a hit for two opposing teams in the same game!

The Bat used by Holman to record his two infamous hits.

No Time

Today there is little time for posting. I spent a good part of my morning at the County Tax Collectors office trying to get the tag for my truck. Unfortunately I left empty handed with an elevated blood pressure. Tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow I will try again.

Don’t forget our Poll

It has been quite interesting to see your comments and votes in our poll. I have had a lot of interesting feedback, and a lot of you have told me that you don’t know what to vote. Right now the majority of you don’t know what to vote, so at the moment “I don’t know is winning.” Keep thinking, and then vote.