Garbage In Garbage Out

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8-9

Years ago at the start of the computer revolution, a new word was coined. In those days computers were new and people were struggling on how to maximize their effectiveness. Bad data was consistently entered leading to a universal truth: If the raw data is bad, the computer can’t do anything good with it. What you put into a computer determines what comes out. This led to a new word, GIGO. It stands for Garbage In, Garbage Out. If your input is garbage, guess what your output will be? Yep, garbage. The computer cannot fix or make sense of bad input.

What is true of computers is also true of Christians. Just as the computer quickly knows that the data is bad and unusable, God knows when we are submitting bad data to Him. He knows garbage when He sees it. I used the word “crap” in Sunday’s message but garbage sounds a little less descriptive and a little less earthy.

The truth is Christians collect a lot of garbage over their lives. Garbage that we need to rid ourselves of in order to have a better relationship with God. Because if we don’t, it starts to smell and eventually harms our relationship with God. And we talked about on Sunday, one area of garbage is when we try to run the bases our way, to ignore the patterns set forth by God and then ask for His blessing. God sees it is garbage in and will not bless us or show us favor.

The way to rid ourselves of the garbage in this area is by finding our purpose in our creator, not my career which means we run the bases and follow the patterns God has set for us. We can start by acknowledging that we can’t do it alone, and ask for Jesus’ help. We then have to surrender our will to His, meaning we will let God’s Holy Spirit work in us to move us from base to base in the right order.

Doing things God’s way is how you find joy and fulfillment. God has sustaining grace for each base in the Home Run Life. His timing is perfect. His purposes are powerful.  As a Christian, seek God’s convicting power to be at work in your life to expose any area of garbage or crap in your life. Then resolve within your heart to walk in the Spirit and ask for God’s grace to enable and assist you in your desire to live a life glorifying to God. Doing things “my way” can at most achieve goals within that person’s capabilities. Doing things God’s way opens the way to achieving goals that lie within God’s capabilities.

To do this we must practice the various spiritual disciplines, such as attending weekly worship services, praying, having a daily quiet time (such as using our daily devotional), and participating in a Northstar Group. That may seem like a lot of work, but it isn’t. These eventually become part of your life, and pretty soon you can’t imagine a day without them. Do these things and the amount of garbage in your life will diminish.

The best thing we can offer God is an undivided heart. God is looking for people who are willing to put Him first, to push away distractions and make Jesus central. When we are willing to live a Home Run Life according to God’s instructions, we will receive the favor and blessings of God.

Discussion Question:

  1. Have you ever run the bases backwards? Have you ever thought about running the bases backwards?
  2. Do you have a tendency to see half the baseball diamond as God’s (or sacred) and half yours (secular)?
  3. How effective is your garbage removal system? How often do you take the garbage out?
  4. True life change comes only through partnership with God and must begin with a rejection of all faulty, self-centered methods. These faulty, self-centered methods have become a part of our culture and even our own way of life. Where do you think these faulty methods of change came from? Why do people cling to these methods? In what ways do these faulty methods have a partial truth that can seem to be correct?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you follow His patterns and His commands for life.

God At Work

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3

Perhaps every young man who has put on a baseball uniform has had a dream to become a major league baseball player. Who would not want to be in the limelight and make millions to boot. The road to the major leagues is a long and difficult one. It takes more hard work and determination than you can imagine. There is constant instruction designed to fix flaws or make what is good better. They have to constantly improve and work as hard as they can because somebody wants to take their place and is putting in the hard work and hours necessary to be better. To be the best, you have to push yourself. Remember there are only 750 major league baseball players in the United Sates.

As Christians, what should our view of work be? There are Christians who view it as the penalty of living in a fallen world. Others make a distinction between what they perceive as the sacred—serving God—and the secular—everything else. Rick Warren writes in The Purpose Driven Life:  “Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it with an awareness of His presence.”

Many people point to Christians as the reason they have a problem with Christianity. They believe we act one way in church and a completely different way outside the church. In some cases they may have a point. In some cases, it may just be an excuse. The way we live for God should permeate all areas of life. And the workplace is no exception.

There is one over-riding principle we can apply to all work and we find it in Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” This directive not only means that we should be working to the best of our abilities, because that is what God deserves.

And since our true boss is God, we should do the best we can and with integrity, knowing that our reward is from Him. John 19:11 tells us that, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above….” Since all authority on earth is God-given we should obey our superiors unless, of course, our boss tells us to do something that goes against scripture. And finally, all those we work with and for are valuable to God and as a result should be valuable to us.

Consider trying the following: imagine yourself as the boss and ask, “how would I like employees to work, even when I’m not watching them?”

Even when jobs or coworkers are hard to like, we are to work as though God is our boss. That means doing tasks with joy, a servant attitude, respect for others, diligence, and obedience to those in authority.

However hard we feel we have to work, it is vital we make time to rest, to spend time with God and with our family and friends. If we do not do this, we are in danger of pushing God into our “outboxes”.

Discussion Question:

  1. Is it difficult to separate the work you do in church and the work you do outside of church? Why?
  2. Does it matter whether you enjoy your job or not?
  3. Proverbs 12:11 “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” What does that mean to you?
  4. Pray and ask God to give you a view of work consistent with His.

What Price Success

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11.

When Florida Marlins owner Jeff Loria and General Manager Dan Jennings signed slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a record 13-year, $325 million contract, the Marlins were telling their 25 year old slugger that they had plans for him. They had plans to prosper him and give him a future.

In Sunday’s message, I talked about our purpose being our creator, not our career. I said everything that you would expect to hear. Yes, you ought to set goals. By all means, work hard. And, please, never give up. But if you only set goals, work hard, and never give up in terms of career and success, then you will ultimately be a failure.

The people who put their careers and work above all else in life tend to fall prey to some poor thinking. They elevate their projects higher than those whom they love. They are stressed. They have no margin. They are often befriended by those who benefit from the fame and achievement that they sought so hard to reach. They find that all they have achieved is temporary.

The prophet Jeremiah says a few other things around verse 11. Here is what he says in verse 10-14: “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah says that there will be a time when the Lord will give the exiles a great hope and a great future. When is it? Is it when they do these things? No. They do these things while they wait on the Lord. But the Lord turns to them because of verse 12. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, and I will restore your fortunes.” How do the exiles get a great future and a hope? It is not by SAT scores or six figure salaries. It is not by having a large house or expensive cars. It is not by working more hours than anyone else. Those things are not bad in of themselves. But, higher than those things, Jeremiah says to the exiles: Seek the Lord. Jesus said it as well. Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. THEN all these things (food, clothes, etc.) will be added unto you.

Rick Warren puts it this way: “Success is discovering what God wants me to do and then doing it.” Set goals, yes. Work hard. Absolutely. But always follow Jesus first, because your identity is in Him. If you do that first and above all else, there is no other secret to success, for in Him you have all that you will ever need. For no matter how hard you try, you will not find your identity in the size of your house or the nameplate outside your office door. Instead, I pray that you will remember the great prize you have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So whether you are a teacher, a coach, a pastor, a carpenter, or a businessperson in a normal neighborhood with a normal life, remember this: If you’ve sought Jesus first, you’ve got the greatest reward of all.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some ways the American view of success has filtered into your everyday life? How can you fight this? Is it wrong to seek to be successful in our jobs? How do motives fit in?
  2. How can we sort out whether our motives to succeed are selfish or for God’s glory?
  3. God’s blessing is not necessarily related to favorable circumstances. Agree or disagree?
  4. Pray and ask God to give you the courage to trust Him in everything.

We Is Better Than Me

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” – Romans 12:3-13

Life is hard. Life is difficult. We all run into various kinds of challenges; health problems, financial issues, conflict within our families. We have an opportunity to encourage one another and that is part of what church is about. Church is not something that you do individually, it is something that you do collectively. We believe the church is not a weekly gathering, building or an institution, but a living organism of people banded together in our mission to help the whole world find and follow Jesus. We want to make disciples who make disciples, and love like Jesus while transforming Panama City and the world. We are the “family of God.” A family is by its very nature inter-dependent. In Christ, Christians belong to one another. This is a divine reality and not dependent upon experience. We are bound to one another because of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, not because of shared interests or like-mindedness or common experiences. What it means to be a part of a local church is that you’re inter-dependent with other people in your church.

But as churches have become larger, we have moved to smaller groups of people doing life together. Northstar Groups have one, simple purpose: to bring people together. We believe God created us to live in relationship with others and only then can we live the Home Run Life He intends for us. Sharing life through community is part of our design, but meaningful relationships aren’t always easy to find. That’s why Northstar groups exist—to make these life-changing relationships relevant and accessible to you.

We believe 100 percent in the small group model and our goal is to have everybody participate in a small group every semester.

It is through doing life together that our problems become smaller and God uses others to bring healing, support and encouragement to our lives—whether we realize we need it or not. Your small group will quickly become a place where others don’t just know your name, but care about what is happening in your life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is it important for Christians to be intentional about community? How would you rate your experience in small groups to date?
  2. Small groups are not some extraordinary social experience. What do you see as the principle role of small groups?
  3. How do small groups provide opportunities for you to grow? How do small groups provide opportunities for others?
  4. Would you agree that the physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer? If so, what makes it so? If not, why not?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you find a Northstar Group that is right for you.

Keep Short Accounts

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” – Psalms 130:1-8

“Keep short accounts…”

It’s likely that most anyone who’s been a follower of Christ for any length of time has heard this phrase at least once along the way. But what does it mean? And what is the application for my life.

In general, it means that when we sin, we should quickly make every effort to get alone with God, ask His forgiveness. The same applies to relationships. We should work to make things right as quickly as possible with any other person that we have wronged. And then relegate it to the back of our memory banks. Living daily with a clean conscience is far better for the Christian than living with bitterness and anger hanging over our heads, regardless of the relationships we are in.

Say you are an accountant and your job is maintaining the books for your company. If you spend a little time each week working on reconciling the books, it’s a straightforward, simple task. However if you wait two months to do so, it becomes a monumental task of trying to figure out what to post to where. It’s the same in relationships. Not letting problems pile up makes it easier to balance our relational accounts.

Relationships don’t work very well when we have a sink full of dirty dishes or resentment that has been building over the years. However, if there is one dish in the sink, it is easier to deal with. If we keep letting the dishes pile up, we will assume the problem has become too big to solve. Bitterness and resentment make for dirty dishes while forgiveness reduces the number of dirty dishes.

There are people who believe they have been wronged to the point that forgetting and forgiving is out of the question. That looking past what has happened is too much to ask. Yes, forgiveness can seem costly. But, I would reply that not forgiving costs much more. I would ask you to make forgiveness a habit. Don’t make forgiveness an option or a policy that applies just to people you love. Make it a part of who you are even with people who are difficult to forgive. And forgive even when they’re not looking for it. Keep short accounts.

Remember that when we forgive those who have sinned against us we are only doing what Christ did when he forgave us first.“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:14-15.

Discussion Question:

  1. How do you keep short accounts? Why is it hard to forgive?
  2. Why do you think people are content to be angry or bitter when the release of forgiveness is available?
  3. What characteristics in your life might indicate that you haven’t fully forgiven past hurts, even if you know in your head what you need to do?
  4. How should a Christian deal with recurring offenses, especially those that open up old wounds?
  5. Is there a broken or strained relationship in your life that you could or should rectify? What can you do to start the process this week?

I'll Pencil You Into My Schedule

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” – Psalms 5:3

Our time is our life, and how we spend it shapes our character, our happiness, our success and our future. How and in what we invest our time is what is important. How does God want us to spend our time? It’s an interesting question to consider. In Sunday’s message we talked about matching up our time and schedules with the priorities in our life such as our relationships. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said: “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” That is the core of what I was talking about on Sunday. Our best intentions means little unless there is action behind them. In other words, are we willing to dedicate the time to do what we say we want to do. In today’s devotional, I would like to expand that thought process to include how much God shows up on our schedule.

Do you ever feel like our Christian walk wouldn’t be so difficult if life didn’t keep getting in the way. That feeling often surfaces on Sunday mornings. Some worship services are the kind where you check your watch every few minutes because they seem to go on and on and on. Yes, the music is wonderful, and yes, the message was spot on for some things you need to live a Home Ruin Life. But at some point, the real world is calling and we have to exit the church and head for home and our schedules. Sure, I want to glorify God, but life is busy, our schedules are packed, there are bills to be paid, projects due at the office.

Many of us are planners. We like to plan out our schedule so we know what we have to do and when. Let’s say we decided to apply this same discipline with God. We take out a blank monthly calendar and after a few moments of thought and reflection say: “Okay, God, I’ll give you two hours on Sunday morning and I believe I can commit to one hour each week for my small group. I will check with you for 15 minutes each morning to set up my day and at bedtime (unless I fall asleep) for a post-day debrief.  I think that pretty much covers it, oh yes, I almost forgot. I will do a brief acknowledgment before each meal. Does that work for you? Outstanding. I’ll pencil you in.”

The problem is that we think that we need to divide or separate God’s time from the rest of our everyday life. Sunday is God’s time, holy and set apart for Him. And the rest of the week is when I get everything else done. The problem with that thinking is we are putting God in a Sunday morning box; that’s when we go to church, pray, worship, and reflect on God.  Starting on Monday, we don’t think as much about God. Not because we don’t love, revere or worship God, because we do. No, it is because we think, “there’s nothing spiritual about going to the grocery store, cooking dinner, meeting with a client, doing laundry or grading student papers.”

God is not a Sunday-only God that wants to limit His interaction with you.  God wants to help you with cooking dinner, driving in traffic, and in your business dealings.  He wants to help you with that algebra problem, help you be more productive at the office and with your role in your small group. But, God will only be involved in as much of your life as you allow Him to be.

Proverbs 3: 6 (TLB) says, “In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success”

In everything you do acknowledge God.  That means when you get up in the morning, acknowledge God;  “Good morning Lord, I love you today. I need your help to live a Home Run Life today.” When you are at work, “Lord, help me to reflect you today by keeping my word and my promises.” Or “Lord, help me be the husband/wife that loves my spouse unconditionally today and every day.”

Here is the bottom line. We don’t have to pull ourselves out of living to glorify God. On the contrary, God doesn’t want designated sections of your day. He wants to be part of every moment of your day. God expects us to make Him a part of our everyday living. Don’t relegate God to a few mentions on your calendar. Let Him infuse your day with His strength, His patience and His love in everything. You will be a different person for it.

Discussion Question:

  1. Do you have faith in God’s presence at all times? Describe a time when you felt God’s presence? Practice the presence of God–take time each day–even for a few minutes to be aware of the presence of God.
  2. What do you need to do to keep God in your schedule?
  3. What, if anything, sounds too difficult about talking and listening to God while you’re doing something else? In what circumstances are you most tempted to stop talking to God? If you were to talk to Him in those circumstances, what would you want to hear from Him?
  4. How would you rate your prayer life?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you be more dependent on Him in every aspect of your life?

 

How Good Is Your Word?

“It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.” – Ecclesiastes 5:5 (NLT)

We all want to be people who keep their word.  We all want to be people who possess basic honesty, integrity, people who don’t just talk a good game but are striving to be dependable and trustworthy.  Keeping our word is foundational to  relationships, to community and to the Home Run Life.

What is it about keeping our word that is so difficult for people? So many people are finding it a challenge to be where they say they will be and do what they say they will do. Some look for loopholes, when fulfilling their word means having to give of their time, energy or resources. At times, our attitude is that if we can possibly get out of it, we will look for a way to do so.  What if God took the same approach in His relationship with us? What if His promises were conditional and He fulfilled His word only when He felt like it.  Fortunately, God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and He keeps His promises. But here is the reality for us who are followers of Jesus. People are always watching to see if your actions match your words. We  all want to be people who keep our promises.

Imagine what life would be without people who keep their word and their promises. Imagine if you went to buy a new car, only to discover several months later that the salesman had lied about the car’s mechanical history. Imagine if you went to buy a new home only to discover that the realtor mislead you about how many repairs the home really needed. Imagine if you entrusted your kids to a school bus driver who was covering up a terrible driving record? The Bible gives us examples of people who kept their word.

One of them was Moses. God calls Moses a trustworthy or faithful person. “But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house.” (Numbers 12: 7). Whenever God told Moses to do something, Moses did it immediately. Trustworthy people receive instructions, carry them out immediately, and do it well, to the best of their ability.

When trustworthy people say they will do something, they usually do it. They do not overbook, or over extend themselves. Nor do they give up easily.  Many people have every intention of living up to their obligation until the first obstacle appears. When that happens they give up and make up an excuse for not keeping their word. This is true of Christians as well. If God gives us something to do, are we easily sidetracked or stalled? How do you deal with obstacles when you are given a task to accomplish?

God wants us to be trustworthy. So do the people we are in relationships with. So, if we make a promise to be at our kid’s ballgame, we ought to be true to our word. If we sign a contract at work, or give a customer our word, or make a business deal, or make a promise to a coworker, we need to keep our word. If we sign up for a ministry or responsibility or make a pledge to the church, it makes sense that we should follow through on it until our obligation is fulfilled no matter how small.

Discussion Question:

  1. What do you do when you give your word? Do you go out of your way to fulfill your promises, or do you look for a way out?
  2. Does your life demonstrate that you count God’s Word to be wholly trustworthy? If not, why not?
  3. Would your clients testify in court that you are trustworthy in all your business dealings? Would your family testify in court that you are trustworthy in all your relationships?
  4. What do you need to work on most in becoming more trustworthy in word and in deed?
  5. What one area can you do a better job of keeping your word? Pray and ask God for the ability to keep your word in that area in the coming months.

A Community Built On Love

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are…” – 1 John 3:1

Baseball is a community activity. You need all nine people helping one another. Everyone has a role and a set of skills they must apply if the team is to be successful. One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the suicide squeeze. The manager gives the sign. The players need to get the sign. The runner on third cannot tip his hand that he is running and the batter can’t tip his hand that he is bunting. The batter gives himself up for the good of the whole. In baseball, you often find your own good in the good of the whole. You find your own individual fulfillment in the success of the community. That sounds very familiar doesn’t it?

No matter how many times I read the Bible, I still can’t fully grasp the love of Jesus. He loved those that did not expect it or deserve it. His love changed everything. The love Jesus showed on the cross restored us to who we were created to be so we could live the Home Run Life we were created to live. His love is something given to us and something He has given through us. God came as man in the person of Jesus Christ to deliver His special message of love and salvation.

This love given to us enables us to do life with and through others. Jesus said in John 13:34 that we are to love others as He has loved us. It is easy to view this verse as another rule that we are supposed to try and follow. The truth is that loving others is an overflow of receiving God’s love and a byproduct of a life committed to Him. When we receive the love God demonstrated for us, then love will come out of our life. We owe people an encounter with the love that has been given to us. We want people to know Northstar for our love.

We are looking at Second Base, how to Win With Others, this week in the daily devotional. As we discuss community and doing life with others I want you to ask the following questions: what is the quality of your love for other believers? For nonbelievers? When you leave first base and have connected with Christ you will love what He loves. The spoke of a bicycle wheel connects with the hub. Jesus is the hub and the spokes get closer together as they connect with the hub. You can’t be close to Jesus and not love others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have I treated my love toward other believers as a commandment, or a suggestion?
  2. How do I practically serve the Christians I am in relationship with?
  3. Do I judge my spiritual strength by comparing myself against others, or by comparing myself to Jesus?
  4. What do you take away from 1 Peter 1:22-23a: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again…”
  5. What happens when Christians carry out Christ’s commandment to love one another? What happens when they do not?

Home Run Life Tip: Don’t Get Picked Off First Base

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

Most pitchers have a pick off move. Some are great at it. It can be a very effective tool. The throw to first base is a key to keeping the opposing team’s running game under control by keeping runners uncomfortable when they are on base. One of the best pitcher pick off moves belonged to Terry Mulholland, who picked off 15 runners with the Phillies in 1992. During the season he allowed just two steals in seven attempts. Mulholland never had more than seven pick-offs after that, mostly because runners just stood on first base; they were simply not willing to take the risk of being picked off.

Getting to first base is important in living a Home Run Life. Staying on first base in preparation for going to second base is also important. The devil wants to make sure you don’t enjoy a Home Run Life so he wants to ensure you don’t make it to first base, let alone around all the bases. But if you do make it to first base, he wants nothing more than to make sure you don’t stay there. This is nothing new. This is what he does and this is what he has been doing. In his mind, the end justifies the means, so he plays by no rules but his own. Hypocrisy, wrong motives, financial problems, criticism, discouragement, and conflicts are all fair game because anything goes. Our adversary will stop at nothing to undermine our character and destroy our hopes, happiness and our need for God.

The devil would like nothing more than to pick you off first base and harm and diminish your relationship and connection with God. He wants to make sure you do not get comfortable at first base. The devil has a variety of pick off moves, but two quickly come to mind.

First there is temptation. Satan wants us to have an unhealthy lofty view of self, and an unhealthy false view of God. Satan wants us to see ourselves as superior, and that we can do whatever we want to do. “We’ve earned it. We deserve it. There is no harm to it.” He wants us to rationalize sin, and to lessen the affects of sin upon our lives. He shows the bait, but hides the hook; gives us a gold cup, but hides the poison.  Satan wants us to view God as an all merciful, loving, gracious, hipster God, a “cool buddy” who wants to do life with us and doesn’t mind letting us do our thing once in awhile.

Second, there is the grim reality. Satan wants us to see ourselves as without hope, without a future, no forgiveness, no restoration, full of guilt, and to walk around in a funk feeling sorry for ourselves. He wants us to focus more on our sin, than on the Savior. Satan wants us to see God as distant. He wants us to think that God does not love us, nor will He forgive us. He is too righteous a God to bless us or give us a future, with all of the mistakes we have accomplished in the past.

In temptation, Satan tries to hide God’s holiness. In the grim reality, Satan tries to hide God’s love. In either scenario, if the devil is successful, we won’t have a proper view of who God is, and who we are.

He tries to pick us off first base using people or without people. He will try to pick us off first base using depression, success, or failure. He is constantly at work, bent on our destruction. In the end, he knows he can’t win. He is playing a wicked game of spiritual chess. He knows he’s doomed, but he’ll get your last man if he can. He knows Christ has already won, but he won’t give up without an ugly, unfair, and continuing fight.

What do we learn from this about Satan? He is the adversary. He is the opponent. And he wants to throw everybody off their game that are followers of Christ. The key is to understand that he will try to to keep us from each base in the Home Run Life and to rest on the power and promises of God.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does Satan use believers to oppose God’s work? If so, how?
  2. What ways do you think Satan would attack you on first base? Why?
  3. Are you tempted to question God’s plan and design for your life? Is character the easiest area for Satan to attack?
  4. How can you personally use your times of temptation and failure to your own ultimate spiritual advantage?
  5. Pray and ask God for help in dealing with Satan.

In Character

“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.” – Psalm 15:1-5

Baseball is our national pastime and as such is a big part of culture in the United States and across the world. It is commonly said that baseball, and sports in general, build character. But the reality is that we hear more and more accounts of un-sportsmanlike, unethical, and even illegal conduct at all levels of baseball and sports competition. It seems that character and integrity are secondary to the winning at all costs mentality.

As Christians, we understand the importance of character the minute we open the Bible. If you were asked to reread Psalms 15:1-5 and come up with one word to summarize that passage, what would that word be? I would boil that passage down to one word – character.

Character is that part of us that’s either growing, is stagnant or deteriorating. And when life is hectic and you are trying to keep multiple balls in the air, it can be hard to know which direction it is going. That’s because during the day when we are making decisions, we don’t stop and ask: ”I wonder how this business or relationship or financial decision or course of action will affect my character?” There are not too many character development majors offered in college or even any character development classes for that matter.

Yet, character will always show up in our lives and it will determine our response to failure and pain or even success. Most people only work on their character when it needs to be worked on, which usually happens in hard times or when we mess up. Fortunately, we always have access to God’s presence. You can enter God’s presence, but how do you stay? If you want to have total access to God’s presence in your everyday life, then you must learn to live the Home Run Life and that starts with being connected and then moving to first base and character.

Here’s a critical point. Character will reveal whether you are actively pursuing the Home Run Life. It means I want to proactively try to connect to God and my character will reflect that. The Home Run Life requires more than working on the connection to God when we’re experiencing hard times or if we’ve messed up. Our character must be more than just the pinnacle moments of life. It must become embedded throughout life. It must become part of you, part of your daily routine. We must think about it. We must focus on it. Why? Because our character development in our life is the prerequisite to the power that only comes from being in God’s presence and the Home Run Life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Did Sunday’s message change or alter your understanding of your character? If so, how?
  2. What is it about your character that makes it difficult to live the Home Run Life?
  3. When your character does not reflect the character of God, who suffers and how do they suffer? When your character reflects the character of God, who is blessed and how are they blessed?
  4. Are there areas of your life where you have not surrendered to the wisdom of the Lord, but find yourself struggling with fear, temptation, or sin? Please describe them.