So I hope you were here last week as Ken opened up our new series called Baseball.  It was a very powerful day where Ken had a chance to really share his heart, his personal experiences, and really layout this next discussion that will take us all the way to Easter.  Now I know it’s not the best time for “America’s Favorite Past Time,” between the Houston Astros stealing signs, and the fact that the game is so slow for our young people of today, but we can use baseball, and the rules of baseball to really see some awesome imagery for our own spiritual lives and spiritual growth.  Now that I think about it, maybe the fact that baseball is not so popular because of how slow it can be for people today actually speaks to something bigger that we are challenged with in our culture when it comes to focus, the ways of God, and the idea of us 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!  Well that is not really where we are in today’s world, 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 and in baseball, you can’t score a run, without running all four bases and who has time for that?  Where’s the quick fix, or the shortcut found?  Well Jesus says when it comes to God…there aren’t any shortcuts…

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

So this gives us a lot to talk about, but let’s start by looking back at the big question Ken led us into last week…do you remember this?  He was pushing in on us, asking us some things that really go straight after our hearts he kicked off this series asking this question.  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 we see here that 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 but Ken pressed in a little further here because 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 like it’s going against the grain.  It can feel almost like, it’s not worth it, just stop doing the God thing.  It can feel like, faith isn’t worth it anymore.

So why baseball?  It seems to be a game that seems to be losing its luster…well because in so many ways we can see a plan for our spiritual growth in the game of baseball.  You want to score a run in baseball, but to do that you have to run the bases, you can’t go to second without going first, and you can’t shave the bases and just run straight to home, it would be nice…definitely easier…but it’s just not how the game is played…and we can really pull a lot of this for life.  Last week Ken showed us God’s plan to grow us and moves us to this place where we are centered and dependent on God.  Do you remember this?

Home Plate – At home (which is what we talk about today) we learn dependence on God.  Until we learn to depend on God we just don’t and won’t have God’s favor.  Walking out of with God through life is an exhausting way to live.

First Base – At first base we learn character.  This is an essential step in our development.  Without strong character there is no depth to us, and while we can look really good in pictures on social media, and out in the shallower areas of life, nothing we do will last.

Second Base – At second base we learn how to get along with others.  It’s all about relationships and community and how to win with others.  So once we have our relationship with God right, and our hearts right, we can love others well too, an essential step in life.

Third Base – At third base we learn about results and how we perform.  This is where we learn to win or succeed, which is interesting because for so many people they want the results and the success without putting in the hard work of engaging God, their inner world, and other people.  It’s tempting to run right to third, but it’s not how the game is played.  Then to score we run home again…back to God because it’s all about Him.

So those are the bases and we also need to understand the rules that apply to our spiritual growth.

Rule #1 – You only score when you cross home it’s where you start and finish.

Rule #2 – You must touch all the bases to score, if you skip one you are out.  Remember there are no shortcuts to God.

Rule #3 – When you run to the wrong base you are out, you may think you are getting ahead…but it shows a lack of maturity, and discipline.  It is cute when the little kids do that in tee ball, but when you do it in your adulthood…it’s actually pretty sad.

Rule #4 – If you are out, it’s ok, because of God’s love and forgiveness you always get a fresh start at home plate…when you lean fully on your dependence on God.

So today’s we are going to talk about where we start this journey towards spiritual and personal growth and that is found at home plate.  Everything starts and ends 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 it’s 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

So let’s slow down here and really think this through.  What does this all mean?  Think this through…what would it mean that God was everything absolutely everything got started with God and that apart from Him you can do nothing?  It means that life is about God and what He is doing, not about you and what you want.  Let’s say that again…that means that life is about God and what He is doing, not about you and what you want…whoa.  Can I tell you something here today?  Understanding and maybe most importantly accepting that statement as truth is a total game changer for you and your life.  Listen, until you figure this out, and accept it as truth, your life is going to be a lot harder than it needs to be.  Until you can figure this out, your life won’t make sense…and to take it a step farther, your life is going to be really frustrating.  Because it’s all God and what He is doing, and I like to say that trying to control something you can’t control is as frustrating as getting on a treadmill and hoping to run to the other side of the room your in…you sweat, you work, you exhaust yourself, but you just aren’t going to get anywhere.  This is so key that we get to this place where we understand and accept this truth…

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

Do you see why it’s important to start at home plate…with God?  It’s all about Him and what He is doing.  So what exactly is God up to?  Well we talk often of this mission that we are on, that sets us firmly in the middle of what God is doing…Peter talks of what God is doing here…

2 Peter 3:8-9 …God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change. MSG

This is so powerful; God is holding back the end of time so that everyone has an opportunity to come to know Him in a real way…He doesn’t want anyone lost.  You know, if you want to learn to depend fully on God, the best way to do it is to serve Him.  Jump in on the mission of Christ, get involved in helping others come to know Him, engaging this mission will expose the issues of your heart, it will squeeze out all of your pride, and really beat this truth into your head.  That life is about God and what He is doing not about you and what you want.  Because you are engaging God’s mission and the only way it works is if God’s in it, doing it, and leading it!

So ok Sam, I get it, life is about God and what He is doing.  The question then becomes how do you respond to this truth?  There are three ways a person can respond.

The first and most preferably we would surrender to God’s will.  We accept that this is about God and what He is doing, and we get involved and serve the greater mission that we Christian’s are called into.  We live for Him and move forward walking in step with His plan for our lives!  Jesus says this…

Mark 8:34-36 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”  NIV

Another response to this truth that it’s all about God and what He is doing and not us and what we want would be to ignore what He is doing altogether and just live for myself and what feels good.  It’s a popular way to live today, but it’s not going to lead to the kind of lives we are called to live.  Here’s Paul talking about that level of spiritual maturity…this is a ferocious statement here…

1 Corinthians 3:3 As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when anything is going your way? MSG

Another popular response to the truth that this is all about God and what He is doing and not us and what we want would be to try to have it both ways.  Really this hits in the heart of so many of us feeling pulled in two directions at once…but in the end this is just a way to control your life while hoping to look like you are allowing God to control your life…that is the tension I really was addressing with you guys a couple of weeks ago on life being so hard…and we sit in it again today…we say we are surrendered to Jesus and what He is up too…but we are still captivated by the world’s ways and what we want to do for momentary pleasure.

1 John 2:16-17 Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. MSG

So let’s take a moment here and slow down and reflect, how do you respond to the reality that in the end everything is about God and what He is doing, not you and what you want.  Do you embrace that?  Do you ignore it?  Do you try somehow to sit in the middle of it and play both sides?  How you respond to this question will say so much about your life, your energy levels, and the peace in your heart and soul.  You know, one of the things I have been bringing up a lot lately is how important it is to be aware of where you are at in life…it’s in that awareness of who we are that we can grow as people.  In fact, last week at the Fire Hall we were talking about this, and I read this quote from Pete Scazzero on this very idea.  Listen to what he says about knowing yourself in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

“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

So we are building on a thought today.  The reality of being dependent on God is understanding one very important truth.  That in the end this is all about God and what He is doing, not us and what we want.  How we respond to this truth is a big deal but you may be wondering how you are doing with this stuff.  You may be listening to this talk thinking…Sam, I’m with you, but I’m not really sure how I’m doing with this.  I want to be surrendered to God, but I’m not sure how I’m responding to this reality of it all being about Him.  And I want you to see that in the end, your heart is coming out, and exposing how you are actually responding to this truth that it’s all about God and what He is doing.  You can’t hide it, it’s coming out and you may just need to be more intentional in seeing the messages your heart is sending.  When you walk through life and think it’s all about you it comes out of you in many different ways…and I want to talk to you about some of those ways…so if I start describing something you deal with it’s not to make you feel bad, it should be a good way to help you see where you are at!  Remember that awareness is a really big deal!  When you see things in your heart that you need to deal with you can deal with them!  So let’s look at a few ways your heart may be saying that you aren’t really embracing the idea that this is about God but that you are still making it about you and your needs.

  1. When life is about me and what I want everything is about me chasing my dreams…and when things don’t come together the way I want I get angry.  I’m stressed, filled with anxiety, I get depressed, or just raging mad because things aren’t going the way the should.  Why?  Because in the end your not in control and it is driving you nuts!  So you try to medicate yourself to take the edge off…it doesn’t work.  You try drugs, alcohol, you escape, or isolate yourself…it doesn’t work.  While God can offer you the remedy which is the power of The Holy Spirit that destroys sin and death.
  2. When life is about me and what I want I’m easily offended.  Why are you so easily offended?  It’s because everything is about you.  You say you are sensitive but it’s really self-centeredness because your world is revolving around you.  This is another way to check your heart…remember Jesus said you are to forget yourself and follow Him if you want to be His disciple.
  3. When life is about me and what I want I reserve the right to get even!   If you hurt me, I’m going to hurt you back.  Why do we do this?  We aren’t trusting God to run the show and be the judge we must handle it.  I’m the judge…I decide right and wrong.  Carrying grudges, seeking revenge, just leads to a miserable, and exhausting life where we hold onto all our pain and our job as followers of Christ is to forgive and give those hurts over to Jesus.
  4. When life is about me and what I want I don’t take ownership or responsibility for my walk with God but expect the church to create and sustain that for me.  This person expects the church to create as many programs as possible to keep me happy.  Now they won’t spend time with God on their own they are just too busy for that, but the church needs to offer us as much as possible…especially if I’m paying my pue rent.  We need children’s programs and a youth program, and deeper teaching and discipleships.  Now we make no investment in our development or our children’s spiritual development but if we aren’t growing it must be the church’s fault.   Listen, Jesus went to the cross and tore down all dividers between you and God so that you can now walk in a personal and loving relationship with Your Heavenly Father…and if you aren’t prioritizing God into your day to day life I don’t think those 52 days of the year you spend with your church thinking of God will offset the 313 days of the year that you ignore your walk with Him.  It’s not the church or the pastor’s job to fix you, only God can do that…but He can’t do that until you make the commitment to be with Him and prioritize Him into your life.

Listen there are many warning signs to help you see where your heart is in this response to the true reality of life that in the end this is about God and what He is doing, not you and what you want…and these four just seem to be really popular ones but if you see them in your life, well now we know where we stand and we can do something about it!  So what will it be for you today?  Will you surrender?  Will you ignore God and live for yourself?  Or will you try to live with one foot in both camps trying to do the God stuff but also grabbling whatever feels best in the moment?  How you respond to this reality will define the rest of your life…and I want to say this, if you don’t like how you are responding…GOOD!  Now you see it, and when you see it you can do something about it.

Every day you have a choice to make, you can walk through life and center on God, humbling yourself enough to engage Him fully or you keep your pride and struggle and wrestle for control all the days of your life against God…who is in control of all things.  When you surrender to God you are saying that you are done trying to push God into your ways and plans and you are letting go and accepting God’s greater plan for your life.  When you do this your life will free up in a new way.  You will begin to experience joy, peace, and that freedom that you hear us talk about all the time here at MRC.  It’s really frustrating to try to fight and control and wrestle with God…because in the end, the truth is that it is all about God and what He is doing.  It’s amazing the peace that comes as you can surrender your life to Him.  It’s amazing how much energy we lose fighting His will and trying to push ours on The God of the Universe.   Check out what James says here…

James 4:8-10 So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet. MSG

Wow!  Let’s read that again in the NLT…

James 4:8-10 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.   Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.   Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. NLT

So when you look really look at your life and wonder why is everything so hard all the time.  Where is this life and life to the full thing that the Pastor keeps talking to me about?  Where is God in all of this?  Remember something important, He is there.  The reason you feel like everything is such a struggle, and that life is so hard has everything to do with how you respond to the reality of life.  The truth that we keep coming back to, which is that in the end it’s all about God and what He is doing not you and what you want.  The way through, the way to peace, to joy, to freedom, to energy, and rest, the way to spiritual transformation, to growing up as a person…is to surrender to God.

Every day you need to wake up and realize it all starts at Home Plate.  Everything begins and ends with God.  Life is about God and what He is doing, you aren’t the center of this story, He is.  Life is not about you and what you want.  Every day you wake up and start at home plate, making the decision to say a quiet yes to God, and He will lift you up in honor.

In the end this is the key and now that we understand home plate is where we start and finish because everything is about God and what He is doing, not me and what I want, with that understanding we are ready to run the bases, next week we run to first base…which is character.