Just Keep Swinging

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One of my all-time favorite stats come from Hank Aaron and while you might think that it is his home run record of 755 it is not. It is also not his hits, doubles, triples, or RBIs. All of those are impressive but his at-bats are what really get me. Hank Aaron had 12,364 at-bats. Think about that for a second, it took 12,364 at-bats to get his record 755 home runs. That means he was more likely to not get a home run than to get one. Now in all fairness, his slugging percentage is .555 which means there was a good chance he was going to hit something but we don’t typically think about those we just want the home run.

When I think about this I think about Philippians 3:12-14 where Paul basically says “I am not fully mature yet but I keep swinging.” Paul is talking to the Philippians about unity, humility, and perseverance and those are things I know I need to be reminded of in my own life. The point is we are not done yet and we need to keep swinging. My goal is to get to heaven and hear my God say “well done good and faithful servant.” That is what I want more than anything. When I wake up in the morning my prayer is that God will reveal to me His will and ways. Now when I go to bed I evaluate and if I hit it then I rejoice, and if I miss the mark then I pray for strength for tomorrow. I pray that I can keep swinging.

I want to hit home runs at every bat and I want you to hit home runs at every bat. I want you to succeed and that the things God has called you to. I want to shine like stars in the darkness but that will only happen if I keep swinging and it will only happen in your like if you keep swinging. You will not hit every pitch no one ever does. You will strike out more than you hit but you have to swing, you have to keep trying, and you have to wake up every morning and say “Thank you, Lord, for another at-bat.”

There is a new year right around the corner and it will be hard at times and amazing at times but only if you keep pressing forward to the goal promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

Just a thought,

Mike

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The Medium is the Message

According to Marshall McLuhan, “The medium is the message.”  Have you ever heard this saying? Have you ever wondered what it meant? What is a medium? Moreover, what in the world does this have to do with the Bible?

First, what is a medium? Per Webster’s dictionary , a medium is a means of effecting or conveying something.

What does it mean that the medium is the message? Well to be honest when I first heard this saying I thought it was about how the medium determines how the message is communicated. If we look at water as the message and a balloon as the medium water takes the shape of the balloon. Water is not a balloon but it takes the shape of the balloon so in the same way the method (medium) of communication determines the how the message is delivered. Now I am not saying this is not true because to a large extent that is true the medium determines how the message is communicated, however, that is not nearly as important as the fact that the medium itself is the message.

Each medium communicates a very specific message and not only that but the medium shapes the way you view and interact with the world. Most people have a primary medium they prefer and that medium has rules, standards, points of view, and more importantly functions. The medium you choose will influence your other choices in life. Notice I said influence and not control because while some might suggest that your medium dominates your decisions I am not willing to go that far. I know you might still be wondering what this has to do with the Bible but track with me for a moment.

I do not intend to debate the merits of various electronic mediums except to point out a few things. If we look at a medium like texting we see that the message is, or at least could be, get your point across as quickly as possible. Full sentences are not needed and are somewhat prohibitive in this. The point of a text message is not to get across a full idea but the essence of what you want to say. You would not say “I think that is a good idea we should probably do that” but “k.” The problem is that the messages communicated through this medium are often taken wrong or out of context. The message of this medium is not to understand complex thoughts but to quickly communicate. A problem that we have is people have mistaken the message to be “here is an effective way to communicate our thoughts” but that is not the message. We have mistaken the message and in doing so misapplied the use of the medium. Texting is not meant for in-depth communicate but for short messaging hence the name SMS (short message service).

Another medium is the TV. The TV is by far a much larger medium and much more influential than texting but it still has a message. Yes, the TV delivers many individual messages but the TV has an overarching message as a medium. What is that message? I am going with relax and be entertained. I think there is also a possibility that the message is to stop thinking or at a minimum think less and think without context (that is without reference). But that is a little combative so I will just work off the entertainment hypothesis. If the message is to be entertained then we have to make sure, like texting, we understand that. Yes, there are programs not specifically designed to entertain but they will still have an entertainment factor in order to compete for your viewership.

So again, the question that must be asked is what does this have to do with the Bible? The Bible says in Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is the exact or express image of the invisible God. It also says that He is the image of God in Colossians 1:7, that He is the Word of God in John 1:1. It is important to know that the medium is the message because Jesus is the medium of the Father. Jesus conveys something from the Father. When we understand that we can look to see what the message is and the message is clear. God loves you, God desires a relationship with you, and God desires you. The message in the person of Christ is you are wanted and loved. You are forgiven. Jesus says for God so loved the world that he gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him would have eternal life and that is a powerful message.

Now if mediums not only have a message but shape how you view and interact with the world then how does the message of Jesus as the Father’s medium affect and shape your interactions with the world? First off to be clear it should. It should drastically shape your world view. Everything you do should be Christocentric meaning that it has Christ at the center. The way you treat your family should be Christ-centered.  The way you treat strangers should be Christ-centered. The way you think should be Christ-centered. Everything should be Christ-centered because you are centered in Christ. As a Christian, you not only have a relationship with Jesus but you are in Him and He is in you. But the questions was not how should it affect you but how does it affect you? You are the only one who can answer that question.

If it is true that the medium is the message, then the fact that Jesus is the medium of God is huge. There is no greater message that can be delivered. It is important to not misapply the message that is Jesus as many have done. Jesus as the medium and the message is paramount in understanding God. If you want to know God better then it comes through knowing Christ.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

Mike in a Box

I have an aversion to religious rituals in my life. This aversion is so strong I even call it ritualism. Anytime I think something might become a ritual I avoid it at all cost. I struggle with a consistent morning devotional because I am afraid I might just start going through the motions. I am afraid of losing the spiritual connection to the action so often times I avoid beginning it in the first place. I think to myself instead: Michael you have the Holy Spirit, you can pray and fellowship with God anytime. This is true I can pray and fellowship with God anytime I like, but do I?

Before I continue I want to let you know that I plan on using a few analogies and to remind you that analogies eventually break down. Some analogies are better than others and some hold up longer than others but that is their nature. An analogy can only go so far because they only have partial similarities and so it is with the ones I will use.

My aversion to rituals is, by and large, only affected by spiritual things. I brush my teeth every morning, I go to the gym most mornings, I wash my beard two times a week, and so on. Now you might be thinking that these things are not rituals but routines and you would be right they are routines. A routine as defined by Google – a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program. Every morning I have the same routine: I wake up, get my robe, drink my coffee, read my emails, check the verse of the day, check Facebook, re-read the verse of the day because I forgot already, and so on. Same thing every morning. There are slight variations depending on the day but you get the picture. If I was the star of a TV show my morning routine could be the opening credits because it does not change.

Another routine I have is I go to the gym four days a week. I do different exercises each day but there is still a routine in there. I have thoughts about not going to the gym because I don’t feel like it, especially on Fridays, but I know it is good for me so I go. I am usually glad I did. So why if I can see the value of routines in my daily physical life am I so hesitant to put spiritual routines in place? Why do I call routines rituals in my my spiritual life? The answer is…I have no idea.

That is the point I hit about three weeks ago. I was dumbfounded at why one was seen as good and the other as bad. Yes setting aside specific prayer times could become dull and robotic but the same could happen at the gym. True my reading could turn into a “must” instead of a “want” but that can happen in any area. The reason it doesn’t is because of self-control and desire. I desire to get stronger or to learn an instrument. The desire trumps the problem of dullness. Then at times when the desire is not as strong self-control takes over and keeps me on track. Things do not become ritualistic because you choose to not allow that to happen. So I made a choice.

Three weeks ago I set three timers on my phone that simply say prayer time. When these timers go off I stop what I am doing (if I can) and take a couple of minutes to read something and pray. I am happy to say that most days I hit all three times. There are days when due to my schedule I simply cannot do it and that is OK. I still do my bigger readings and bigger prayer times but these three times are about stopping to refocus my attention on Christ. It is not about doing a Bible study or getting a breakthrough in an area of my life. It is simply about stopping to spend a few minutes with Jesus.

I was so afraid of putting God in a box that I did not realize something very important. While God does not belong in a box but I might. We are always told to think outside of the box, to be free with our worship, to live in the moment, and to listen to the Spirit. That is great and I try to be like that but what about self-control. What if you find yourself wanting to be like that but not having the time every day to do that. Am I always spontaneous with my wife? What about with my kids? No, because there are times when you need to make time for them. Times when you are busy. You want to spend time with your loved ones but your schedule does not allow for you to do something in the moment. In those times you have to be intentional about it. Our walk with Jesus is similar, we need to be intentional about it. Sometimes we need to put ourselves in a box so that we can do the thing we want to do.

So I have put myself in a box and I have to say it is more comfortable in here than I thought.

Just a thought,

Mike