Can’t Fool That Umpire!

Whenever a baseball pitcher throws a pitch that is just a bit outside of the strike zone, the catcher will invariably move his mitt a few inches in order to try to make the pitch look as if it were a strike. This is called “framing the pitch”. Umpires are rarely fooled by this ploy, but occasionally they will call a strike on a pitch that was obviously outside the strike zone. Framing doesn’t work often, but it works often enough to encourage catchers to keep on doing it.

Many people try to fool God by “framing” a particular behavior that is out of bounds for a Christian. They try to make their actions appear to be well within the parameters of holiness when their deeds are in fact sinful. Gossip, drunkenness, lying, sexual immorality, swearing and other sinful behaviors are often “framed” as being not so bad.

You may be able to fool some people with this tactic, but we must remember that God is the ultimate Umpire! God will make the final call, and you can’t fool God!

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”—Galatians 6:7.

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Relatively Speaking

In the lead news story in today’s edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader, it was reported that Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced that there were 237 new cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths from the virus yesterday. This was received as good news because those numbers were down significantly from the much higher numbers from a few months ago.

This is a reminder that such news is relative. Think about what our response would have been two years ago to such a story. If the newspaper back then had reported that nine people had died in one day from a contagious disease and that 237 others had been infected, the news would not have been good at all! We would have been quite concerned about the threat to our health. Only in light of what we have experienced in the past year-and-a-half can this be taken as good news. It’s all relative.

We need to be careful that our attitude toward sin does not change with the times. There is a danger of the church lowering our standards to keep them just a bit higher than the standards of the world. Because we live in such sinful times there is a real danger that we will become more accepting of sin. Just because we are relatively better than those around us does not mean that we are living lives that are pleasing to God. We must be diligent about pursuing holy living!

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”—1 John 2:15-17.

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Shared Lives

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”—Romans 12:15.

The Bible urges us to go through life together, sharing experiences with each other under various circumstances, whether good or bad. We were not created to live in isolation, but in community.

We can’t make the pain go away in times of tragic loss, but we can ease one another’s suffering by showing up and offering our condolences and hugs. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” One way we can show our love for our fellow human beings is to be there for them in their time of loss. Burdens are much lighter when they are shared.

When it comes to sharing life with others in light of Romans 12:15, I have found myself in both situations lately. I made four trips to funeral homes in a three day span to mourn with some friends who were grieving. I know that they would have done the same for me.

On the other hand, I have spent some time lately rejoicing with those who were rejoicing. I cheered for our local high school softball team, the Lewis County Lady Lions, as they won the district tournament. I stayed after the game to celebrate with players, parents, grandparents and other fans. Then on the drive home I found myself in a caravan of cars that were following the team bus, which was escorted by a police car. When we got to Vanceburg, the caravan was met by fire trucks and paraded through town, horns honking to celebrate the district championship.

A few days later I followed this team to the regional tournament, cheering them on to a first round win, a 12-inning marathon victory in the semi-finals and a thrilling win in the championship game. The celebration on the field and in the stands was long and loud. This was followed by another, even larger, caravan home.

As I write this, there is a community rally scheduled to take place at the school tonight, to celebrate the Lady Lions’ first ever trip to the state tournament. The rally will also be for Austin Howard, a local high school runner who will be competing in the 100-meter dash at the state meet this weekend. I plan to be there with many others in the community as we rejoice in the accomplishments of these young athletes and take pride in our home town. I look forward to rejoicing with a lot of friends and acquaintances who also want to share the joy of this winning experience.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will be in the stands at the University of Kentucky softball stadium, cheering for the Lady Lions of Lewis County. Hopefully, tomorrow’s game will bring about another chance to rejoice with others. Let’s always remember that, good times or bad, life is meant to be shared together.

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First Things First

Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a ball over the fence Tuesday night, but he did not get credit for a home run. Hayes was so intent on watching the flight of the ball that he neglected to touch first base, as the picture above shows. The rules of the game require that you must touch each base before you can proceed to the next one. Instead of getting credit for a home run, Hayes was called out.

This type of mistake rarely happens in baseball, but it happens all the time in life. People think they have it made safely to their home in heaven, but they have neglected to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Jesus says that he is the way and the truth and the life, and that no one can come to the Father except through him (John 14:6). If we don’t accept that fact, it doesn’t matter how many apparent “home runs” we hit in life. It will all be for nothing if we ignore the claims of Jesus.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”—Matthew 6:33.

In the game of life, don’t miss first base! Accept the righteousness that only comes through Jesus! Then, and only then, will you make it safely home.

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Coming to the Rescue

Have you seen the video of a 17-year-old girl defending her dogs from a full-grown bear? The video, which has been viewed more than 68 million times, shows Hailey Morinico, of Bradbury, California, rescuing her dogs from a bear on her back patio.

The dogs were naturally defending their territory from the intruding bear. The bear was naturally defending her cubs from the perceived threat of the dogs. When Hailey saw what was happening, she rushed to the rescue. Without hesitation, she ran over and pushed the bear off a concrete fence. Then she herded her dogs to safety, while the bear scampered away. Hailey sprained a finger and scraped a knee in the encounter, but other than that she and the dogs are fine.

Experts do not advise pushing bears. Even Hailey cautions, “Don’t do what I did. You might not have the same outcome.” She just got caught up in the moment. Without thinking, she put herself in danger in order to rescue the dogs that she loved.

This reminds us of how the shepherd boy David rescued his father’ sheep from lions and bears (1 Samuel 17:34-37). It might also remind us of this teaching of Jesus from John 15:13—“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

The Bible tells us that the devil wants to destroy human beings. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The Bible also says that we should come to the rescue of those who are being attacked by Satan. We should work to restore those who are caught in a sin (Galatians 6:1). Jude 23 urges us to “save others by snatching them from the fire…”

We are called by God to defend our brothers and sisters in Christ from attacks by the enemy. Throwing caution to the wind, we must rush to their defense. The threat is too great, and the consequences too severe, for us to “mind our own business” and not get involved in the lives of Christians who are in danger of being dragged away by Satan. Our love for our fellow believers must outweigh any fear, or doubt, or hesitation we may have. In this world where spiritual warfare is a real and ever-present danger, we must rush to the rescue of anyone who needs our help.

The story of Hailey Morinico confronting a bear in order to save her beloved dogs also reminds us of the gospel message. Jesus knew that we were facing a threat that was too big for us to handle on our own. We were dead in our sins, but Jesus came rushing to the rescue! Leaving his heavenly home, Jesus came to earth and laid down his life for us. By dying on the cross he paid for our sins. When God raised Jesus from the dead, Satan was defeated. Through Jesus we have deliverance from sin and death! He made it possible for us to be saved, and for that we will be eternally grateful!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”—John 3:16.

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Pleasing Aroma

One of the many things I like about this time of year are the wonderful aromas that come from the various blooms of late springtime. I especially enjoy the fragrance of the honeysuckle that grows around the perimeter of our property. Just the other day I was riding the mower when I noticed it. I actually smelled it before I saw it, and started looking around for it. There is was–honeysuckle—an honest to goodness delight for the nostrils.

The Bible says that we Christians are the aroma of Christ. We spread the fragrant scent of the gospel wherever we go. Our presence makes known to everyone—saved or lost—the good news of salvation through Jesus. What a great privilege it is to be used by God in such a special way!

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”—2 Corinthians 2:14-15.

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Don’t Get Caught!

A recent Family Circus cartoon had young Dolly sharing this piece of advice with her younger brothers—“Remember—no running in the house if an adult is watching.”

That seems to be the mindset of many adults when it comes to our own behavior. The main priority is to not get caught. Don’t speed…if there may be a police officer nearby. Don’t cheat on your taxes…if you think there is a chance you might get audited. Don’t litter…if there is someone watching.

While many are simply striving not to get caught engaging in bad behavior, we should strive for something nobler. We should make it our goal to do the right thing, even when no one is watching.

Keep in mind, of course, that God is always watching! No one else may see our bad behavior, but we can’t hide anything from God.

“Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”—James 5:9.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”—1 John 1:8-9.

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Leading from Strength

President Theodore Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt’s policy for leading the United States was described in his famous line, “Speak softly, but carry a big stick.” That’s a far cry from current President Joe Biden’s promise that the United States would lead “not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”

These two vastly different views of leadership spring from vastly different worldviews. A biblical worldview maintains that a nation has the God-given duty to use its strength to protect and defend its citizens so that they may have the freedom to live, work and worship without the threat of harm being perpetrated against them from any enemy, foreign or domestic. Romans 13:1-7 points out that God has established the ruling authorities and that “rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.” (v.4). This viewpoint holds to the fact that the citizens of a nation are better served if their leaders choose to lead from a position of strength. A non-biblical worldview rejects the notion that it is best for a nation to lead from strength, and therefore searches in vain for other ways to protect its citizens.

The result of our current administration’s disdain for any kind of a “Big Stick” policy has resulted in a rash of huge problems for the United States.

The surge of illegal immigrants at our southern border is finally being described as a crisis even by some of the liberals in media. This blatant disdain for our immigration laws has emboldened drug cartels and human trafficking networks, has created immense problems for homeland security and will put a huge strain on our economy as many of these illegal immigrants will no doubt take advantage of all the benefits that are offered them at the expense of the American taxpayers.

A major oil pipeline was recently hacked, causing a fuel shortage in some parts of the country and an increase in gasoline prices all across the nation.

One of our valued allies, the nation of Israel, has been under attack, and the ensuing violence has caused a number of casualties on both sides.

COVID-19 has killed nearly 600,000 Americans, and many survivors have serious on-going effects from the disease. In addition to this, the pandemic has taken a terrible toll on the U.S. economy. Yet in spite of all of this, the United States has been remarkably reluctant to hold China responsible for any part they may have played in allowing this disease to spread and then covering up their culpability.

These are just a few anecdotal examples of how a nation can suffer from a lack of strong leadership. When those who wish harm to the U.S. and our allies sense weakness in the leadership, they are emboldened to take action, and the citizens of the country pay the price. It is critically important that we heed this biblical principle of leading through strength.

Church leaders and parents could learn from this principle as well. Congregations with weak leadership see a rise in unholy behavior from their members. Children who are not disciplined do not learn that there are consequences for bad behavior. We all would benefit from strong, godly leadership at all levels of society.

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Courage

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, mother of the civil rights movement, was arrested in 1955 for refusing to give her bus seat to a white man. Boycotts and protests followed, and eventually the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation unconstitutional. In Quiet Strength she writes: “I have learned over the years that knowing what must be done does away with fear. When I sat down on the bus that day, I had no idea history was being made—I was only thinking of getting home. But I had made up my mind. After so many years of being a victim of the mistreatment my people suffered, not giving up my seat—and whatever I had to face afterward—was not important. I did not feel any fear sitting there. I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. It was time for someone to stand up—or in my case, sit down. So I refused to move.”

Settle in your mind what is right, and you will find courage in your heart.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”—Ephesians 6:10.

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Honoring Marriage

Many people in our culture today do not give the institution of marriage the respect that it deserves. Some want to redefine it. Others simply choose to ignore it and pretend that marriage is merely optional for a man and woman who want to live together. Still others do not take their marriage vows seriously, and their neglect manifests itself in various ways.

However, marriage is a wonderful, God-given institution, and the Bible says that marriage must be honored by everyone. Those who don’t honor marriage can expect to face some negative consequences if they do not repent.

Let’s all decide to give marriage the respect that it deserves.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”—Hebrews 13:4.

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