Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Just Do It - No Pressure

This article is a memorial to Coach Dub Merck who was ‘called up’ to the Big League on August 3, 2009.

They shouldn’t put that much pressure on the shoulders of twelve-year old kids.
But then again, we probably didn’t even think about how much pressure it was at the time – after all, we were only twelve!
Our baseball team had scratched and clawed to get to the state championship tournament in Kermit, Texas. We had not been expected to advance that far, so we hadn’t made reservations at any of the very limited-in-supply hotels of that small, west Texas town for the week-long tournament. As with Mary and Joseph, there was no room at the inn – either of them!
Our coach was the primary reason we had gotten that far – we weren’t the most talented team, but we were definitely the best coached team. He came through for us yet again by contacting the local sheriff and arranging for our team to stay in the juror sequestration rooms in the courthouse for the whole week. (That was great fun and the subject for another story sometime.)
In the first round of the tournament, we were facing the team that everyone knew would win the championship. That team was from some hoity-toity North Dallas neighborhood, the kids averaged being about 6 inches taller than us, they had professional-looking uniforms, a team bus, and hadn’t lost a game all year. In fact, I think that they had won only a couple of games by less than 10 runs.
By some miracle, we were tied with them in the bottom of the last inning. My best friend, Danny, was on third base. We had two outs and I was batting with two strikes against me.
Our coach called a “time out” and came out to talk things over with Danny and me. He wanted me to switch over to batting left-handed so Danny would have a clear shot at home plate. The coach wanted to run a suicide squeeze play - Danny would take off for home as soon he could get a jump and I would try to lay down a bunt. (If you know much about baseball, you know that if you try to bunt with two strikes and you foul the ball, you’re out.)
At that point, it became pretty obvious what we were planning. So, the other team brought all of their players into the infield – in fact, they were all positioned between the pitcher’s mound and home plate.
The next few seconds seemed to pass in ultra-slow motion. The pitcher eyed Danny leading off third and tried to keep him frozen. But as soon as he barely flinched to start his pitching motion, Danny broke for home. I squared around to bunt as the pitcher released the ball. Danny was sliding through the right-hand batter’s box about the time the ball made contact with my bat. The other team stumbled around all over each other to get to the ball, but by the time they got it, Danny was sitting on home plate and I was almost to first base - they were so sure they would stop the squeeze play that they left no one covering first base.
We met that team again in the championship game. Because our coach knew all their weaknesses at that point and because we had the confidence of knowing we could beat them, the championship game wasn’t even close – I think the score was 12 to 4. And despite three emergency radio calls during that game, the sheriff wouldn’t leave our stands to respond until the last out.
In addition to our parents who made the trip to Kermit, we also had all of the locals pulling for us - from the sheriff to the cafĂ© waitress. Those people could sense something special was happening. They didn’t quite know why, but they were attracted to our team and what we were doing.
Our coach had a plan. He saw each game and the entire tournament from a different perspective than we did as players.
As players, we each had certain talents and abilities (and responsibilities). And our coach knew how to harness those and mesh them with others’ to accomplish what no one thought could be accomplished. So long as we submitted to our coach and focused on what we were called upon to do, the victories came.
So, what does any of that mean to us today? Just a pudgy, old guy reminiscing about the “glory days?” Not this time.
You see, God knows His game plan and how to accomplish what He wants accomplished. (See Romans 9:16-24) Similarly, it is obvious that God not only knows our specific gifts, talents, and abilities – He is the One who has given them to us and He did so for His purposes. (See 1 Corinthians 12:4-31) He also knows those gifts, talents, and abilities of all of the other believers around us.
He knows how to make it all work together for His goals and His glory.
When we obey and do what He has gifted and told us to do, people will notice and they will be drawn to praise God for what they see Him do through us. (See 2 Corinthians 9:12-15)
However . . . we can and do come up with all kinds of excuses to delay or ignore what God calls us to do. Many times we just freeze under the perceived pressure and anxiety - fearing that we will fail.
But do you know what? The results aren’t up to us. We’re just supposed to do our part – He controls the outcome. Just do what He says.
Can you do that?
Are you ready to listen and submit to God, regardless of the risks?
Are you ready to do whatever the Coach calls on you to do, or do you really only want to play a particular position? Or do you think someone else should play that role because you think they would do it better?
Can you promise to give 100% to the next play even if you aren’t sure right now what that play will be? Will you give your all to the next play, even if you don’t see how it can possibly succeed?
Would you prefer that someone else play today, because you don’t feel up to it? Do you prefer to play in better weather or against weaker opponents?
Or - can the Coach count on you in any and all situations?
Are you willing to respond as Isaiah did, and say, “Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play!” (Isaiah 6:8, CCR Version)
Listen up: You are up to bat and the game is on the line. God has given you a job to do and it is one He has gifted you to accomplish. But remember – there’s no pressure. As I said before, the results aren’t up to you. The victory is His and He already won it for you. He just wants you to submit, obey, and give it your all.
No pressure.
Just a job to do.
Now go do it.

When you are obeying God and doing what you have been called to do and gifted to do, there is no pressure. Success or failure are not up to you and are viewed from His perspective, not ours. Be strong and just do what you are called upon by the Coach to do today.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Render Unto God

Although many people probably attribute it to Shakespeare, or Socrates, or some other great ‘philosopher,’ one of the most famous quotes of all time is: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.” And it was indeed spoken by the greatest philosopher of all time – Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:21).
As we know, the context of the quote involved the ‘religious elite’ who were also very entwined with the culture of their day. They weren’t trying to get Jesus to give them some revolutionist justification for not paying taxes to Rome. Instead, they were trying to trip Jesus up and force Him to admit that His brand of ‘faith’ isn’t really practical. They wanted to make Him admit that, “Sure, you can be ‘religious,’ but in this world, you have go along to get along.”
But Jesus isn’t the one that got tripped up.
Jesus made clear to those questioning Him about paying taxes that if something belongs to Caesar, they were to give it to him. But He also told them to give to God what belongs to Him. (We don’t seem to pay as much attention to that part of the quote.)
Jesus also set forth a pretty easy test to determine to whom something belongs (Matthew 22:20):
1. Whose portrait is on it?
2. Whose inscription is on it?
With regard to the ‘paying taxes’ question, it was clear that Caesar’s likeness was on the coin used for paying them. Also, Caesar’s name was on the coin. So – since it apparently belonged to Caesar, give it to Caesar.
But is it so easy to determine what belongs to God? How are we supposed to know what belongs to God to appropriately give to Him what is due Him?
Sure, I can give Him about an hour and a half on Sunday morning (as long as the preacher doesn’t go on and on). I give Him few minutes before going to sleep each night to say my, “Now I lay me down to sleep . . .” I supposed I could probably tithe. I’ll try to knock out a chapter in the Bible over a cup of coffee each morning.
Isn’t that enough? Well - isn’t it?
Let’s apply the Matthew 22:20 test to see what exactly belongs to God so we’ll know what to give to Him:
1. Whose portrait is on it? Hmmm – Genesis 1:27 says: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” That would seem to indicate that His image- His likeness - His ‘portrait’ is on me of all things!
2. Whose inscription is on it? Well, 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23 both tell me that I was bought at a very high price – Jesus’ blood. So, His inscription is on me.
I think that means I’m supposed to give ‘me’ to God. All of me.
I’m not supposed to give God just a part of me; there’s no compartmentalization because His image and His name aren’t on just certain parts of my life.
And I’m not supposed to give God just what is ‘left over’ after giving my best to the world. You know, ‘Firstfruits,’ ‘Seek Him first,’ . . .

[G]ive to Caesar what belongs to him.
But everything that belongs to God must be given to God.

(Matthew 22:21, NLT)

So – what are we to do with that today?
Let the world have what is ‘of the world’ – don’t try to hold on to any of it.
But with regard to this ‘new life’ that God has given us, let Him have all of it – don’t try to hold on to any of it.