Batter up!

Baseball season is back and little league games are cranking up. Kids are getting new shoes, going to practice, oiling down the ol’ glove, all a part of the game. Getting baseball caps, picking out the uniform with their favorite number, and above all, making the starting lineup are all extraordinary events in the life of a little baseball player.

The umpire says, “batter up!” and the boy steps up to the plate. It’s time to see if all that practice has paid off. The boy digs his cleats into the dirt and takes his stance. The coach yells out, “knock the cover off the ball!” The pitcher quickly winds up and throws a fastball. The young batter eagerly swings. At the crack of the bat, the ball line drives into center field for a base hit. Racing to first base, panting like a deer running for his life, the young player reaches safely. As the crowd cheers, the lad nonchalantly looks up into the stands to see if Mom and Dad made it to the game. Yes, they are waving, smiling, and shouting, “that’s my boy!”  

If you want to win a baseball game, your team simply has to score more runs than your opponent. If you want to be a winner in other areas of your life, you have to learn some other things too. I would like to share a few ways to have a “winning day” every day. The starting lineup of winning attributes, are listed in the following:

1. To reach base safely with God, we must live by faith.

2. To receive an education, we must listen more than we speak.

3. To maintain a high batting average in life, we must be more positive than negative.

4. To have friends, we must smile more than we frown.

5. To be happy, we need to laugh more than we cry.

6. To be part of a winning team we must help more than we hinder

7. To make the starting line up of life, we must work more than we whine and pray more than we worry.  

8. To get a hit in life, we must prepare and practice before we perform.

9. To receive in life, we must learn to be givers and not takers

Lastly, to hit a grand slam home run we must be born again by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord of our life. Remember, we were not born to lose, but through Christ we have been born to win. Batter up! You and Jesus are a winning team.

— Tommy Meekins

Faith News: The Times They Are a-Changin’

Last Sunday I was on a retreat in a canyon near Leakey, Texas. There was no cell tower that could reach into that canyon. It was indeed a trip back in time.

 In 1963, when Bob Dylan released his album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” he was prophetic. When he wrote “The Times They Are a- Changin’” little did he know that in 1986 federal law would establish Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. to begin at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and end 2 a.m. the last Sunday of October. (I don’t know how the first Sunday of April became the second Sunday of March.)

The times are changing, but the writer of Hebrews declared that there is one constant that never changes.  Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus is the same Yesterday Today and Forever.” His love for us, his desire to reach others, his Great Commission and His Great Commandment remain unchanged.

How we share his love for us with others, how we reach others, how we fulfill the Great Commission and how we live according to the Great Commandment to love the Lord with all we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves, however, does change with the times, no matter whether we’re telling stories around a campfire, writing letters, sending telegraphs, telephoning, faxing, emailing, texting, instagramming, or sharing pictures of our breakfast on Facebook.

Magically, even though in my canyon retreat last Sunday morning I couldn’t use my iPhone to call anyone, the time on my digital watch, my iPad and my iPhone somehow knew to spring forward. When I pulled out of the canyon and back on the highway to civilization my iPhone started picking up 23 text messages. One right after another they beeped at me. 

On the way home, I decided to stop for lunch with a friend and his family at a pizza restaurant in Boerne. Just above the doorway into the room where they sat, my eyes drifted to a black-framed picture featuring one of my favorite artists. It featured a 1963 version of Bob’s profile cut out of a copy of  “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” 

I bought it before I had one bite of pizza. For me it  was a reminder that even though our digital world knows when to set clocks to spring forward, creative artists can still find ways to help preachers fall back on memories of a prophetic 1963 release that included one of my favorite songs, “The Times They Are a-Changin.”

—Jim Gill

Don’s Daily Parable-Status bar

We all see them, love them, hate them, or don’t care at all. Usually you see them when you are downloading a program or app. I have said before how I dislike seeing them because when you download a program or an app, you must go through about 6 of these status bars telling you that the program is setting up, cleaning out old files, etc., etc. Anyway, it takes about 30 minutes to finally get to use the program.

I guess we all really like to see them, deep down. We can’t stand not knowing how things are going. At least, that’s the way I am. If I am waiting for something, I may call someone several times and ask, “Is it there yet?”. So, I really do like knowing how things are going. We check the stock market, sometimes daily. Even though they advise you not to, when you are on a diet, you weigh yourself every day. That’s the way I do it, anyway.

When we are on a trip, we look forward to seeing the highway signs which tell us how far the next town is. We have fuel gauges in our cars which tell us how much fuel is remaining in the tank. A lot of cars can tell you when it is due for its next oil change. Truth is, we don’t like surprises, either.

Now, this is a stretch, but what if God created a way for each person, who is a Christian, to have a status bar, showing their progress on going to heaven. When you first accept Christ, you are (or should be) very excited and want to do things to please the Lord. You look at your ‘status bar’ and see that it’s already moved several increments toward the ‘heaven’ mark. That’s good feedback, right?

Well, you are moving along there and for some reason, you stop going to church, or you start using language unbecoming a Christian. You check your ‘status bar’ again and it’s eased back a couple of clicks. You begin to hang out with folks who are not Christians and they begin to influence you in a bad way. You start to do the same things they are doing, and talking the way they talk. You start participating in other activities on Sundays during the time you would normally go to church.  

Well, you really don’t want to see your ‘status bar’ at this point, but God has made it so that it’s right there in front of you all the time. You really don’t have a choice whether to look at it or not. So you see that it’s almost down to zero again. Okay, in the real Christian’s world, what can you do to get on track again? How can you get that ‘status bar’ to start displaying progress again?

Truth is, Christianity’s not that way, thank the Lord. You are either a Christian who is going to heaven, or you’re not. There is no in between, therefore, you don’t need a ‘status bar’. The reason is simple. Our being a Christian and going to heaven has absolutely nothing to do with doing good or doing bad.

We should rejoice about that. What freedom that gives us. You see, if there was anything we could do to earn our way to heaven, then Christ would not have had to die on the cross for our sins. The ‘status bar’ went from ‘O’ to fully registered to ‘100’ or whatever the maximum is, the moment Jesus drew His last breath on the cross. The sin debt was paid. When we pray for forgiveness, acknowledge that Jesus died for our sins by dying for us, and believe that He was resurrected in three days, that is the only thing necessary for us to go to heaven when we die.

All these other things will become a part of our life, doing good, going to church, reading our Bible, saying things that Jesus would have said, etc. Yes, Jesus made it to where no status bar is needed. Thank you, Lord. God bless you.

—Don Cunningham

Grace and the associated nature

Both grace and mercy spring forth from the nature and wisdom of the gracious or merciful one. 

There are very real and significant differences between these two attributes though. 

Mercy implies guilt to an offense against the merciful one or as defined by a law. The granter of mercy weighs details of the offense and the specific circumstances of the offender and decides to set aside what the law would otherwise require.

Grace, on the other hand, is not a reaction to an offense. The granter of grace does so without regard to any law. Grace derives solely from the nature of the gracious one. The specific circumstances of the recipient of grace is immaterial because grace is a basic defining characteristic of any who display graciousness.

Mercy sets aside judgment. Grace allows no judgment. Instead, it seeks only to magnify and promote the positive in any relationship with another. 

Mercy can be reversed if the offender reneges on any associated agreements or conditions. Grace, on the other hand, is never contingent on anything about the one to whom grace is extended. 

Grace is an inevitable, universal reality because the God defined as love ceases to be so, otherwise. 

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—Rick Crotts

Jesus warned: ‘Beware of false prophets!’

Jesus warned: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15).

Both the Old and New Testaments say a great deal about false prophets and false teachers. In fact, the Law of Moses required the death penalty for the false prophet or dreamer (Deut. 13:5). 

Of course, if the prophet or dreamer was telling the people, “let us go after other gods and let us serve them” (Deut. 13:2), then it was rather easy to know that such men were false.

However, when their message wasn’t so blatantly false, how would God’s people know whether a prophet was true or false? “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ – ‘when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him’” (Deut. 18:21-22). 

In the New Testament, the apostle Peter wrote: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you” (2 Peter 2:1). 

Jesus taught that we will know them by their fruits (Mt. 7:16). So that means we will have to do some fruit inspection. In other words, is what they are teaching true (in harmony) with the Word of God (Acts 17:11)? The apostle John instructs Christians to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). Again, in order to put teachers to the test we will have to compare what they are teaching to the perfect standard of the Bible (Jam. 1:25). 

And if and when it has been determined that someone is a false teacher, the New Testament is quite clear as to what actions must be taken. (1) “Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). (2) “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9). (3) “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11). (4) “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 10-11).

Here are a few brief examples of false teaching today:

• Faith only saves (James 2:24).

• Baptism is not necessary for salvation (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).

• Hell is not real (Mk. 9:43-48; Rev. 21:8).

• Children are born sinners (Dt. 1:39; Ezek. 18:20; Mt. 18:3).

• Once saved always saved (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 6:4-6).

• One church is just as good as another (Ps. 127:1; Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:4; 5:23).

Beware of false prophets! 

Only the truth will set us free (Jn 8:32)! 

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—Jesse Flowers

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