So we are working our way through this series called Baseball which is the discussion that will take us all the way to Easter.  It’s incredible that this is our conversation in the times that we are in today…with so much uncertainty and a lot of unknowns unfolding every day with this Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic.  It’s almost heightened or given more meaning and depth to what we are trying to accomplish in this series.  It’s amazing to watch how people respond to adversity and challenges…and we sure have a lot of that right now don’t we?  We struggle with things like slowing down, intentionally moving into God focus, and really prioritizing life in intentional ways in general, and now we are really being forced to think, and act intentionally, along with slowing down!  I mean who has the time to even think through the idea of intentionally building a foundation of faith, developing the character and depth needed to be the kind of disciples of Christ we are designed to be!  That just is not really where we are at culturally am I right?  We live in a world moving faster than we can move, and we don’t really want to intentionally work our way through anything in life which is why we use baseball as our imagery.  In baseball, you can’t score a run, without running to all four bases and who has time for that?  Then in what felt like just a day or two, the country shuts down, and we are all trying to find our way through what can be stressful, and anxious times…times when we need the kind of depth that a disciple of Christ has…the kind of depth and faith needed to get through difficulties in life, and that doesn’t happen by accident.  It’s an intentional process.  It’s interesting isn’t it?  Everyone wants the shortcuts; everyone wants the quick fix…but Jesus tells us there aren’t any shortcuts to God…

Matthew 7:13 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.  MSG

By the time I spoke last week at The Fire Hall, our worlds were a little uncertain, weren’t they?  We had schools shutting down, we were all wondering if we should steal the church’s toilet paper, and we were talking about words that typically aren’t part of our vocabulary like pandemic, and COVID-19.  I mean I am a pretty introverted person but I had never heard of “social distancing” before last week…then I realized as a Pastor how good I can be at it!  LOL all I need to do is to introduce myself as a Pastor and kaboom social distancing takes care of itself!  I am joking around a bit, but it is pretty intense right now isn’t it?  And as we spoke about the type of life we could and should be living as God’s children, I could really feel how important it is to build our lives as God intended…especially in moments like we are living today…where NOTHING SEEMS TO BE GOING AS PLANNED!  We have more questions than answers, which is why this deliberate plan is so important…because it sustains us through all that life throws at us!  It’s amazing to think about this series and what we are discussing, especially as life for us all has changed so much in the last few days.

So if you think about where we have been we are really hanging out in a big time questions do you remember what it is?  Have you ever wondered what in the world is God up to?  I mean life is hard, and I am facing struggle after struggle, what exactly is God doing about it?  I go to church and I hear Ken and Sam bring up this amazing life I can have with God in it…but life isn’t working out the way I want it to…it’s interesting right?  You have read scripture and expected passion and joy with God, but you look at your life and think, ‘It’s not working.“ Passion, joy, life to the full…no…I’m tired, exhausted, and feeling more stress than peace most of my days.  So where is God?  Well, let’s read one of those scriptures filled with these promises that God gives us.  This is God speaking through the prophet Jeremiah this is a pretty popular scripture…you may have heard it before.

Jeremiah 29:11 I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.  12 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.  13 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.  “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, 14 I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” GOD’s Decree. MSG

So God has plans for our lives.   He wants to take care of us.  He isn’t going to abandon us.  He wants to give you the future you are hoping for.  God listens to our prayers.  You won’t be disappointed there is some realities to our lives that look a little messier than the picture we see there in that Scripture and it’s an important first building point for this series.  If all that is true, why do I feel like I am always in a struggle?  Why can’t I see what God is up to?  Why do I feel like I am losing in life?  Why do I feel like I’m blowing it?  Why do I feel like God isn’t coming through for me?

Here is the big point that we are going to talk about this month.  God isn’t killing your dreams; God is inviting you to trust Him and join Him in what He is doing.  Let’s be clear about this, that process of trusting God can feel like your dreams are dying.  It can feel painful.  It can feel scary, I mean think of the anxiety and fear we are seeing in people as they walk through this world today, in the middle of the unknowns that just seem to have been magnified by the pandemic.  It’s tough when life isn’t playing out the way we want…it is painful and those thoughts and emotions and doubts are so real…and I think it really sets us up to continue the discussion we are in here using this imagery of baseball to build intentionally into our lives.  Now I am going to make a statement here today…and it’s going to be a challenging one to accept because even as I write this I’m thinking you will only be seeing this on Youtube, or reading it in the blog because of the State of Emergency we are in…but I want you to hear me and personalize how this hits your heart…

God loves you and wants what is best for you.  He wants you to enjoy life more than you do.

How does that statement strike you today?  As you sit at home, practicing social distancing, wondering if the next crisis after Corona is economic?  Could it be true?  That in the middle of this mess God loves you and wants what is best for you.  He wants you to enjoy life…can that even happen in this world today?  Well let’s go back to Jeremiah 29:11…

Jeremiah 29:11 I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.  MSG

So how do you receive that?  Here we sit in our homes afraid, confused, trying to figure out how long this all is going to last and then I come with that type of statement…it almost feels insensitive doesn’t it?  I mean how could I believe that God wants what is best for me and wants me to enjoy life when nothing is happening the way I planned, and certainly is not going the way I want!  It’s hard to accept what I’m saying as true isn’t it?  It’s hard to accept because life is hard.  There are so many struggles here on this Earth and it seems that is understatement in the climate we live today.  So if God is loving God who wants what is best for me, what in the world is He doing?  Why is He allowing all of this?  Well these are the questions and tensions we are all faced with, and it’s why we are using this baseball analogy.  Let’s look at our baseball game and talk our way through this, remember where we start?  Home Base…

Home Plate – We started at home plate this is because everything starts and ends with God.  Home plate is all about our relationship with God.

Colossians 1:15-20 …We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created.  For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.  He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. MSG

Paul is letting us know clearly that everything, absolutely everything starts with God and gets its purpose from God the creator and orchestrator of all things.  Everything centers on Him.  Jesus says it this way in a teaching we bring up around here a lot…

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. NIV

It was at home plate that we discovered this reality…

Life is about God and what He is doing.  Life is not about you and what you want.

And I really wanted you to see that until you can accept that statement as truth, life will continue to be harder than it has to be.  Life will not make sense as plans change, and things happen the opposite of what you want in a world that is all about you.  Life will be extremely frustrating because you are trying to control things that are beyond your control!  It’s at home plate that we make the decision to trust God, and to surrender our wills to His will…this is when we find some peace and life and energy in the middle of the crazy that we call life.  We all have a decision to make, will I trust God, or keep pushing through life on my own?  Once we have our relationship with God, we are ready to run to first base which is where Ken was with us last week.

First base is where we learn character.  What is character?  It’s where we make right decisions as God defines what is right…not matter the cost.  We must develop strong character to have the kind of depth needed to take on life and to achieve things in life that last.  Ken asked some questions last week as we ran to first base that really struck me…do you remember this?  He was building into an idea that one of the biggest challenges he faces is getting Christians to believe the Scriptures…because if these scriptures are true…the questions should not even need to be asked!  Check this out…

Romans 2:24 God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. MSG

Colossians 1:22 He [Jesus] has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. NLT

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. NIV 

How would you live every day if you knew, because of Jesus, I am holy and blameless, and God is with me?  Would you have ferocious courage?  And the follow up was this…How would you live every day if life didn’t work out the way you wanted; would you still have faith that gives you ferocious courage?  These questions are huge…and maybe even more important right now as we wonder what things are going to look like moving forward in our country?  So we are building very intentionally…once we have home plate down (our relationship with God) we can move to first base and work on our inner worlds, our character.  Once that is right we are ready to run to second base, which is what we are going to be talking about today.

At second base we find community.  We find people and relationships.  It’s interesting how many people don’t think they need to run to second base…they try to skip second and run right to third which is results but you need to see this.  How you view people, and how you relate to them says a lot about your heart condition.  Remember you were created by God to be in relationships.  We need people in our lives, even if they are kind of tough to deal with we were created to be with people it is an essential step in our development…not to mention it’s one of the two most important things Jesus said we should do…

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” NIV

When it comes to loving God we can handle that, but if we are honest the loving people part is a lot tougher to do…I like to remind people if that is a struggle for you, just keep loving God, and you will get the loving others part down as your lean on and build into God’s love.  So we know that we were created to be with people, we also know that we are better with people than we would be alone…I know that is an ironic statement as we work on social distancing these days but we are to be with people…it’s really important that we don’t isolate and thankfully with technology today we don’t have to.  We are better together than we would ever be a part.  I like how Solomon puts that here…

Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. NIV

We need people in our lives.  We need community.  We were designed by God to be in relationship with people.  And we have also been learning through this series that there is a big reason that God would want us to love others and it takes us back to the big truth that we have been hitting about life…just for fun let’s read it again.

Life is about God and what He is doing not about you and what you want.

You see it’s about people coming to know Him, and our relationships and community play a huge role whether that is for our personal growth and relationship with Him, or to help others connect to Him, or just to rally and strengthen our Christian communities to better engage what God is up to!  This is a big deal, and one of the things we learn as we move to second base is how to see people through God’s eyes.  This is a bigger deal than you think and reveals so much about your heart condition.  Remember how Jesus told us that people would know we are His disciples?

John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” NIV

So it’s this love towards one another that reveals God to people right here in this world.  And how we view others is going to go a long way in how we treat them.  Which is a really big deal when you realize what Jesus just said to be true!  That we show God’s love by our love towards one another, so how we view others is a big deal, and we must learn to view people as God does.

So this gives us some stuff to talk about today and it’s going to build out of this idea.  We need to view people the way God does.  This means that we need to understand our own personal reality of how we view others.  We also need to understand how God views people…and we can figure a lot of this out by going back to our key truth to this life…that in the end this life is about God and what He is doing not you and what you want.

So I think we need to start with this awareness thing I keep coming back to lately.  I think it’s such a big deal that we see where we are at so that we can do something about it…I’m trying to set a world record for consecutive sermons using the same Pete Scazzero quote but I love it…and it is so important to see…

“You can go to church for 20 years and listen to the gospel and still do life in unhealthy ways.  That requires the work of Discipleship.  You cannot change what you are unaware of.” Pete Scazzero

You just can’t change what you are unaware of…so it’s heart check time.  How do you view others?  When life is about you and what you want rather than God and what He is doing you view people in a couple of different ways.

First – People are commodities.  When life is about me and what I want rather than God and what He is doing everyone exists to help me get where I want to go.  So I don’t go to church to serve people no way…I go to church to network and leverage and to be seen by the right people.  People are my stepping stones, the church is my stepping stone…I don’t support leaders, I nuzzle up to them in hopes to get something from them.  It’s amazing, when life is about me and what I want I can’t see the value or the hearts of the people around me…they are just another leverage point for me.  This is amazing to watch…and so hurtful to those you step on but hey, it doesn’t matter because you are getting where you want to go…who cares how it affects others, right?  Nothing is done with sincere love or pure motives…it’s all to use someone else to get somewhere else, and it only creates a wake of hurt, pain, and confusion behind you…the question becomes do you care to look back and see what you did or not.

Second – People are in the way.  When life is about me and what I want rather than God and what He is doing people are just in the way.  I got places to go get out of my way…people block me from the positions I want, and I certainly don’t have time to love on or invest in others.  We see this in culture, in the workplace, on our sports teams…and sadly we see a lot of parents who feel this way about their children.  It’s a tragic reality to living with self-focus…and it causes so many hurts and so much pain.  I spent a few hours in line at Giant this past week, and I think everyone was in each other’s way as we pushed and kicked and raced to get the last of the bread, milk, and toilet paper before the next person…as I was writing this talk and watching this all unfold I just thought wow…as many families have 700 rolls of toilet paper in their house and will have 50 green moldy loaves of bread in their homes while others go without…it reveals so much about our heart conditions and our culture today.

This is something we need to see, when life is about me and what I want rather than God and what He is doing I trample all over others and live for myself…and it is exposing our heart condition.  Once we surrender to God’s will and develop the character needed to live life as God intended, we can build into relationship and people and learn to view others the way God does.  Which leads us to an important question today.  Which is how does God view others?

Matthew 9:35-38 Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”  MSG

How does God view people?  He loves us so much that His heart breaks as He watches us get dinged up and battle through life.  Did you see that?

When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.

So this is where we need to take a moment today and slow down.  When Jesus looked at people His love for them is very apparent.  His heart broke for them as they struggled through life.

This is so important. When you look at people what do you see?  Does your heart break for them?  Do you see a beautiful but hurting heart or do you see a stepping stone or a roadblock to where you are headed?  How you view people is a huge indicator of where your heart is at…and says so much about how you are walking through life.  Here’s the big question of the day.

When you look at people what do you see?

If you are taking this moment and doing the heart work today and realizing that when you look at people you are seeing stepping stones or roadblocks rather than what God sees, you know that life is still all about you and what you want rather than God and what He is doing…and really there is only one way to change that focus, there is only one way to get to a place where the focus shifts off of you and onto God, which will in turn allow you to focus on others…you must spend time with God.

Matthew 6:6“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” MSG

Remember in the end this is about God and what He is doing, not you and what you want…we have to get to this place where the focus shifts off of us and onto Him or we will never sense His grace and we will continue to trample out over others leaving a wake of pain and heartache everywhere we go.

So where are you at today?  How do you view others?  Can you see what God sees in those around you, or are you networking or racing your way to the top?  I know, I know you don’t work with people and you don’t like to but in the end, this is all about people and their eternal destinies because life is about God and what He is doing, not you and what you want.  When you surrender your life to God, and develop the character needed to live as God intended, and view people as God does, well now it’s time to run to third, and get those results that everyone wants.

How you view and treat others is a big deal and says so much about who you are and how you are walking through life.  Second base seems like a long cut to results, but it’s an essential step in our spiritual development after all we are commanded by Jesus to love God and love others and the rest will fall into place from there.

Ask yourself this question today, and take it to heart.  How do you view others?