Matthew 10:7-8

"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

AN ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE HUMBLE (and to stay that way)

....therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time....(1 Peter 5:6)

The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way. (Psalm 25: 9)

....but, He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)

As I read these verses this morning, I found myself absorbing how very much God really does desire for His people to walk in humility. If you are a disciple of Jesus, the truths of the Gospel and of the Kingdom of God are very different than how we learned things BEFORE understanding Jesus. Leave it to God to use a humble heart as one of His ways to grow His kingdom, to strengthen and change lives. In all other kingdoms, the idea is to be the strongest, the fastest, the smartest and the richest. The most handsome or the most beautiful so as to stand out above all others. If we are completely honest though, we will admit that it can be frustrating at times to see the proud and loud, or the person that could care less about God, seemingly get a head in life. It's hard to keep in mind that those ways are ALWAYS temporary. In some cases even though they may even seem to last a lifetime, the bottom line is that the ways of the proud are the ways of the earth and they will remain with earth. Just like our mortal bodies return to the ground from where they came, so the riches of this world remain constrained by the boundaries of this earth. They will never be permitted to enter the realm of the eternal. God resists the proud, but gives grace and even promises to exalt the humble. Breath in.....relax.....and just think about that for a moment. The very creator of the universe delights in giving grace to the humble. By stark contrast, many of the people who strive to get a head and obtain riches by doing it the "American way" are often very envious, even jealous of the people who find contentment and peace with what they have, or even what they don't have. They can't understand the concept of not always wanting more, especially if it is only for self pleasure. I'm not saying that God doesn't want us to enjoy life and to have things that we enjoy. He surely does, but with the right motives. The concept of this kind of peace often elusive to those that think Jesus was off His rocker! How much better it is to live according to God's principles, instead of the ones that belong to the ways of the world. Sometimes, though, we need to encourage or remind each other of these God things. I hope to do just that for you today!

I really enjoy the Word of God. That is no secret. So it is only natural for me to get excited when I see the Word being lived out in someones life. Recently, I breathed in a deep breath of fresh air from, of all places, the sports world. My love of sports, especially baseball, is no secret either! In the middle of the relentless arrogance that we see day after day from athletes who think that they are bigger than life, there is a story that I want to tell you about. One that has intrigued a city and is even reaching beyond. It's the story of the underdog, the story of a man who believes in never giving up, who believes in the hard work ethic. It's the story of a baseball player and his wife who believe its better to treat others well, than to worry about how others treat them. I will say that I don't know this family on a personal level, even though that would be nice, but I have read enough and seen enough interviews with them that I am able to recognize the finger print of God smudged upon their lives. As I have become more aware of the name Erik Kratz and his family, I am reminded once again that when things are done God's way, that it is much better for everyone in the long run and makes for great inspiration. God's kingdom will be advanced and peoples lives will be touched.

Up until recently, Erik Kratz was a career minor leaguer. At 30, most guys in the minors would have called it quits by now. Erik, a catcher, played in the minor leagues for seven years in the Toronto Blue Jays organization before joining the Indianapolis Indians in 2009, the Triple A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Erik, though, was recently rewarded with a call up to the Pirates and actually played his first major league game last Saturday in Pittsburgh. Kratz, who was having a pretty solid year with Indianapolis when he was called up, now looks like that kid in the candy store as the saying goes. It's not just that a 30 yr. old finally gets his shot at the majors, which in itself makes for a great story, but everything I read about Kratz is something worth mentioning. Kratz has worked in construction in the winter besides playing baseball, in order to keep food on the table. His teammates in Indianapolis, many who are now with the Pirates, speak very highly of him and I really enjoyed some of the quotes that the Pittsburgh Post Gazette printed from him. Kratz was quoted as saying that, "There are only a couple of things that we can control, how we treat other people and how hard we work at what we are trying to accomplish." His wife had this to say according to the Post Gazette: "We are taking this one day at a time, it is God's plan for us. I just can't tell you how much I admire and respect my husband for never getting negative about things and always staying positive." Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates new third baseman added: "He's a great human being and a family person and more people like that deserve an opportunity like this. I can't find a better person who is more deserving."

I wish I could say to Kratz, who graduated from a Mennonite college, "Way to go Erik! Your perseverance and faith are a great testimony to the teachings of Christ. Nobody can tell me that God isn't now rewarding and lifting Eric up. My wife Kay, son Matthew and I are committed to praying for this man and his family on a regular basis. We even praised the Lord for the opportunity Erik had to be the starting catcher for the Pirates on Saturday night and I found myself praying for him with every pitch. (By the way, Kratz went 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored on Saturday, not bad for a major league debut!!) We are praying not only for God to bless him in baseball, but to guard his heart and his testimony. Praise the Lord!

Why do I share this story with you? Maybe it doesn't mean as much to you as it does to this long suffering Pirate fan, but it reminds me once again that God's Word is true. You and I may never have the chance to be in the spotlight on a professional sports level, but if we continue to walk with our God and to walk humbly with Him, He will reward us. There WILL be a time, or times, when He chooses to exalt you!! Yes, YOU!! God does those things just because He is God and because He can. I am reminded right now of yet another verse that comes out of the book of Micah: "He has shown you, oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8) Keep going after Him with a passion, my friend.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)


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