Friday, January 20, 2012

Heaven Is For Real

I just finished reading this book, titled “Heaven Is For Real.”  And while I rarely get into a book, I flew through this book in about 2 ½ hours.  The book is about this young boy who suddenly becomes ill and comes very near to death.  Miraculously he is healed, but not before having an amazing encounter.  The young boy visits Heaven while in his emergency surgery.  Over a period of several years his dad is able to get many details of his visit, many of which are facts in scripture that no 4 year old is likely to know.  It was an awesome story, and one that really made me think.
            The book is written by the boy’s dad, and is said to be a true story.  I believe it is true, but whether someone believes the boy had an encounter or not, there are many lessons that can be taken away from this book.
The greatest thing God has been teaching me this week, and the greatest thing I took away from this book, comes directly from the title.  Heaven is real!!!  As Christians we aren’t just living this religion for the sake of religion.  It is so easy to be caught up in religion that we forget about God.  We serve a living and real God!  There really is an awesome reward waiting for all believers at the end of this life. 
Not only is heaven real, but this living and real God loves us.  As the boy in the book says several times; He loves us so much!  We can’t imagine how much God loves us!  Jesus came and died, taking all our sin because he loves us so much!
Tonight while worshiping, Matthew 18:20 came to mind, which says, For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." So, not only is this awesome and loving God real, but He wants to be with us!  He desires to know us personally, and it pleases Him so much to hear our praise.  God didn’t have to be there with us tonight, but He loves each of us and hearing our worship so much that He wanted to be there.  And God promises that if only we ask, repent of our sins, and believe in His only son Jesus, He will be with us every day of this life. 
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s all pretty awesome.  My prayer for anyone reading this, and for myself, is that you always remember you are serving a real, living, and loving God who loves you unimaginably and who desires to know you more each day. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Remember

          It’s hard to believe that Tuesday this week is my six month checkup with the cancer doctors.  It doesn’t really seem like it was over six months ago I was going through the most trying time of my life.  This has really got me thinking about some things.  God taught me so many things during that time.  Am I still living by all those lessons I learned then?  Or have I just fallen back into the way I was before my diagnosis?
                That time period, from when I was diagnosed to when the cancer was declared to be in remission, was by far the closest I have ever been with God.  I mean, I was getting into the Word and spending time in intimate prayer every day.  And on top of that I was in communication with God throughout the day.  There was an overwhelming peace within me because of all this.
                Now things are back to “normal” in my life.  I’m just back into that same ole routine of class, baseball, and social life.  There’s no worry now of “Will I get to stay in school this semester? Will I get to play baseball this year?  How is my long-term health going to be?”  It’s so easy to forget that these questions were in my head every day just a little over six months ago.
                I mean, I don’t ever really forget that God delivered me from an aggressive cancer just a little while back.  But in some ways I have forgotten.  I am not as close to God now as I was then.  I’m not spending the amount of time I should in prayer and in the Word.  God has done so much in my life lately, there is no reason I should not be spending time with Him daily.  I believe that the whole reason I went through that diagnosis was for God to show me how our relationship needs to be ALL the time.
                The problem is that this is human nature.  When things are going good in our lives, we tend to think that we can live it on our own.  Basically we turn to God and say, “thank you Lord for all these great things in my life.  Now I can handle this stuff on my own, I’ll come to you if I have any problems.” 
                We need to fight this urge.  We don’t know what’s best for us, no matter how much we think we do.  We all face hardships, and we rely on God to deliver us from those.  What we need to do is remember those hardships we’ve faced.  We must remember how God delivered us from tough times.  For me, I will remember how intimate my relationship with God was during that period just over six months ago, and I will strive to have that kind of relationship with God every day. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

God Is Not Fair

Do you ever look at your life or situation and tell yourself it’s just not fair?  I know we all have.  You look at someone else who, in our eyes, does everything wrong, yet get all the “good” things in life.  While we feel like we’re doing everything right and we don’t have these “good” things in life.  Or we run into a hardship in our lives and we say to ourselves “look at that person, they do all the wrong things, but they don’t have to deal with a situation like this.  God, this isn’t fair!”
            I know it’s cliché to say, but I’m going to say it.  Life isn’t fair!  In fact, I’m going to go one step beyond that and tell you that God isn’t fair.  Being Christian doesn’t mean that we won’t face hard times.  It means that when we do face difficult times (and we will face difficult times) we have the Creator of the universe by our side getting us through it, and God will be even closer to us in these times!  And we must remember that when we hurt, God also hurts.  He hates to see us hurt.  But it’s necessary for us to become more like Christ, and for us to shine our lights into this world. 
            Look in the Bible at John chapter 9.  Jesus and his disciples come across a man who has been blind since birth.  So his disciples ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”  And in verse 3 Jesus replies, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” 
            When I was diagnosed with cancer, sure the thought came into my head of “what did I do to deserve this?  I was living a good, Christian life.”  But that thought quickly went away.  I realized that just like the blind man, I was given this disease so that the work of God might be displayed in my life.  In the eyes of the world, is it fair for a healthy, 19 year old, Christian guy to have this disease?  Absolutely not.  But God is not fair.
            And we should praise God that He isn’t fair!!!  Psalm 103:10 says “he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”  If God was fair we would all be doomed.  Remember, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23).  Therefore we all deserve to serve eternity in Hell!  But praise God for His son, Jesus, who paid our debt so that, if we know him, we won’t die, but have eternal life (John 3:16)!  Jesus didn’t deserve to die; he didn’t sin even once in his life!  But God is not fair.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This is a Gift

                I cannot express in words how amazing I felt to be pitching again two weeks ago.  Baseball is what I love to do, and having to sit out for just three weeks killed me inside.  WhenI got to pitch an inning against Georgetown and then start that weekend against Miami, OH, I was the happiest guy on the planet.  I honestly didn’t care at the time that my performance was not up to my usual standards.  I was pitching again!
                I know it is cliché to say that baseball is a privilege, that it is something I GET to do every day, not something I HAVE to do.  But this cliché has never been more real to me than in these past few months.  I truly appreciated my opportunity to play baseball as a gift.  There was a little while that I did not think I would play at all this baseball season.  Heck, let’s be real, I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer, there was always the chance that I’d never play again.  How great do you think I felt when I was told I would get to play the majority of this season?  It was a huge relief. 
                God has blessed me with the talent and opportunity to play this great sport.  So why would I ever take it for granted?  Why would I give it anything less than my all?  My love and respect for the game of baseball is far too great for me to not give my all.  Every time I step out on the field, I am going to make myself better, and leave it all out on the field.
            But once I realized all of these things about baseball, I saw it was only a microcosm to life in general.  Everything that I mentioned above about baseball is also true about our lives.  Life is a privilege.  Every day is a gift given to us by God.  So why wouldn’t we give it our all?  We GET to live another day!  So why not make it the best it can be?  Every morning we should try to make ourselves a little bit better.  Because you never know when it can be taken away , either temporarily or permanently. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Generation Seeking God

“Today, let’s make the decision to become a generation of athletes and coaches who seek God first and with all our hearts, giving our passions and desires to Him. In return, the anointing and power of God will consume us and transform us, and our hunger after God will define us!”
That was the ending line in my FCA devotional today, and man did it hit me like a ton of bricks!  Not because I was feeling convicted about not seeking God first, but because of that word “generation.”   Generation means everybody of a certain time.  Am I trying to reach every athlete and coach in my time, so that they’ll seek God first with all their heart?
God has given me this chance to play college baseball; a chance to call myself an athlete.  But am I always using this as an opportunity to reach my fellow athletes?  How many times do I just use this gift of baseball as a source of self-gratification?  God has given me a passion for this sport, which I am thankful for.  But my first and most important passion after knowing God should be teaching others to know God.
On the baseball field I would never be content if I pitched well, but the team lost or my teammates didn’t play well.  So why should I be content just because I have a relationship with God, but my teammates (in the game of life) may not? 
In baseball it is impossible for the entire team to play well all of the time.  There will always be somebody not playing well, whether its guys in the field playing bad, or on the bench because they played bad.  I want to do everything I can so that the entire team plays great!  It’s the same in this life.  Until Christ comes back, there is always going to be somebody who doesn’t know Him.  So we as Christians can never simply be content that we know God.  We cannot stop until everyone knows Christ as their Savior!
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20
So as long as God keeps giving me the opportunity, I will do my best to make this a generation of athletes and coaches who seek God first with all their hearts.  Wherever God puts you, He wants you to shine His light and make believers out of every person He has placed in your life.  Let’s make this a generation of people who seek God first with all their hearts.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Play the Background

          I’m a very big fan of Lecrae, a Christian rap artist.  Maybe the biggest reason that I enjoy Lecrae’s music is that it is filled with so much truth!  He has so many songs that just hit you every time you hear them.  One of these songs, and one of my favorites, is called “Background.”
                Lecrae starts out by telling God it’s evident that He runs the show, and it’s time for him to back down.  He wants God in the leading role of his life, not himself anymore.  Lecrae admits he makes mistakes, and he’ll never do it right if he’s in the leading role of his life.  So he decides to only play the background in the “show” of life, and let God take the leading role. 
                Every time I listen to this song, it really makes me examine myself.  I find myself asking, “Am I simply playing the background in every aspect of life?  Or am I still trying to be the leading role?”
                It is so easy as humans to want that leading role.  We want the recognition for what we do.  We want to make something happen.  We have to be in the middle of the action.  It’s like sometimes our sole purpose for what we do is to please other people and get noticed.  But this is not what we are called to do as Christians. 
                We are supposed to let God play the leading role of our lives.  After all, this is all His show anyway.  We are supposed to merely be an instrument God uses.  The first thing people should notice about us is God, because He is the leading role.  We are simply in the background, people will notice us after they first notice God. 
                So I want to challenge all my readers and myself to give God the leading role in our lives.  Let’s all play the background.  After all, the leading role in a show is tough.  But playing the background, that’s easy! 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Romans 1:20

            For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
            This verse carries so much truth!  It blows my mind how people can look outside at God’s creation and still say there is no God.  How do they look up at the billions of stars at night and believe all of that happened by chance.  Do you know what the odds are that from the “Big Bang” our Earth just happened to be the perfect distance from the Sun for us to live, with the perfect mixture of gases for us to breathe, and that on our planet this “Big Bang” happened to produce an organism to evolve into humans and all of the animals we see?  It is virtually impossible!
            And yet, people believe these ridiculous scientists instead of seeing the obvious truth that humans and everything around us were created by one God! 
            One thing that I God has revealed to me these past few weeks is this: Even if you start with just a little bit of faith, maybe the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20-21), God will grow that faith, and make Himself so much more obvious to you.   
            In these past few weeks, God has revealed His presence to me on several occasions.  It has been amazing just to sit back and watch God at work!  Before I was diagnosed with cancer, God placed a good friend in my life, someone I really didn’t know before.  It wasn’t by coincidence that this friend also had the book “Crazy Love” to read like I did.  I had been procrastinating this reading, but we decided to read it together, and keep each other accountable.  This book changed our lives and prepared me for what was to come, even though I didn’t know it at the time. 
            It seemed like almost immediately after this reading, I had this tumor removed, knowing cancer was a possibility.  But it was during this time of waiting to hear from the doctors that God kept working in me.  I finally began reading my Bible, and praying like I’m talking to a friend.  By the time the word “cancer” became a reality in my life, I was prepared for it. 
            But God didn’t stop there.  Now it’s amazing to be able to watch God use my situation to show Himself to other people.  This is turning into something bigger than I could have ever imagined!  It has been such a blessing to see.  I’ve learned that when you’re in complete and total surrender to the one and only Creator, He will bless you more than you can imagine.  Then He will use you to touch the lives of everyone that you meet, and many people that you may never meet on this side of eternity. 
            A song that has really spoke to me these last few weeks is “Light Up the Sky” by The Afters.  If you've never heard the song before, really listen to the lyrics.  I promise, no matter what your situation, God is with you, and He will make His presence known.

Quick Update:  For those who don't know, my CT scan on Friday showed the cancer had not spread anywhere.  So now it looks like just another surgery and maybe some radiation should get this thing over.  God is great!