Baseball, Football, and the Countdown to Eternity

Last week the baseball team where I teach made school history. Without previously having won so much as a regular season district championship, they won the district, region, and substate tournaments. Our guys made it all the way to the State Finals before finishing second and rushing home so the five seniors could graduate, wearing their uniforms under their graduation robes. It was a lifetime memory that I will hold dear and I know they will never forget.

In the semi-final game, we were up by several runs, and the visiting team was up to bat in the top of the 7th, the final inning in high school baseball. As our pitcher was throwing his warm up pitches, the PA guy began blaring the 1986 song “Final Countdown” by Europe. Our retro cool students all sang along in the stands and reminded us “old folks” that the song was older than they are.

We excitedly counted down the final three outs that put us in the State Finals.

GREAT memories. GREAT reason to have a countdown.

Yesterday morning I was watching SportsCenter while eating breakfast, and there was a segment discussing the fact that we have hit a key countdown:


College football season. GREAT reason to count down.

The game that claims to have overtaken baseball as America’s Pastime is only 100 days away. Only. That’s almost one third of the year. But we SO love football, we start counting down the days to the first game at 100.

I can’t say much. I start the countdown to Spring Training the Monday after the Super Bowl. Baseball and football are in a constant battle for the title of First Love in my sports heart. As a society, we LOVE sports, and we love counting down to the beginning of each season, whichever season it may be.

But as I was running later, a thought occurred to me: What if we counted down to our step out of time and into eternity with as much fervor and excitement as we counted down to the beginning of sports seasons?

“But Bekah,” you say, “No one knows when He will return. Besides, we’ve been waiting two thousand years. No one can live their entire life as if Jesus was coming back tomorrow.”

To this, it would reply, “True, but not really.”

This is one of those Both/And situations, the beautiful tension of Christian faith.

Do we, as the Bride of Christ, anxiously await the return of the Bridegroom?

YES, just as the Church has done for 2,000+ years.

In His grace, He delays His return for His Bride, desiring that none should perish.

But in His mercy, He calls His children Home to be with Him every single day.

Our lives are a vapor, according to James, and while the Church has been in a countdown for over two millennia, we as individuals are not guaranteed our next breath.

So how do we live a life with the realization that each day could be our last without becoming focused on death?

How do we live with our mortality in mind without becoming useless because of the morbidity of the thought?

Paul addresses this very question in 1 Thessalonians 4. He begins this section of his letter talking about the daily walk of the Christian. He urges the Thessalonians to grow in the Word, to be sanctified, pure, holy, and to love one another. Those things will only happen in that order. The more we know, the more we grow, change, desire to be like Christ, and show His love to others.

What’s interesting is that Paul follows up that section reminding the believers of the hope they have in eternity. It’s as if he’s answering the question he knows they’re going to ask: “Why all the hard work? What’s the end goal?”

He gives his readers hope for this life with a reminder of the afterlife. We live a life seeking Christ, living each day as if it is our last, facing struggles and joys, persecutions and victories, so that we are as prepared as possible for our step out of this life and into eternity.

Paul, when facing his own mortality and impending step into eternity declared he had finished the race and kept the faith (2 Tim). He believed he had lived his life every day as if it was his last.

So as we live this life abundantly, as we celebrate victories, count down to favorite sporting seasons, welcome new lives into this world and remember those who have gone before us, let’s spur one another on to love and good deeds (Heb 10), remembering that both as Bride and as child, each day we are in a countdown, each day we are one day closer to the coming of our entrance into eternity.

How will you commit to live your countdown?

Give Me Jesus

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

How would our lives be different as believers if we consistently walked out the truth of verse three? We are told here that there is nothing in this world that is better than the steadfast, covenental, unconditional love of our God. We may be told this treasure of truth a hundred times, but as we quickly stray to other things that catch our eye, we prove that it is difficult to really believe that there is nothing that outshines Jesus.

We try to find something. From the very beginning of time, we have believed much more easily that God is holding out on us and that surely there is something missing from our lives that we must attain. The only thing missing from life with Jesus is sin. And pain. And heartache.

But God knows how prone to wandering our hearts may be. In fact, Psalm 34, he practically dares us to just try him. So I offer the same dare. I dare you try Him, “taste and see.”

Do you believe that the love of Christ is better than anything this life has to offer? Are you willing to sacrifice the contentment, happiness, love, approval, worth, acceptance, friendship for just Jesus?

The greatest blessing of walking with Jesus is that, when we trust him, we don’t “sacrifice” those things to him; he willingly blesses us in return!

Can you sing this song as a sincere prayer to God?

The Thin Line

It’s an age old problem. Those we love the most, have known the longest, trusted with the most of ourselves, are the ones that have the potential to hurt us the most. This is exactly why so many people walk around with a wall around their hearts, keeping people at arm’s length to prevent potential heart break. The benefits of love are simply not worth the risk of hurt and rejection.

Prevention of pain explains a lot in ministry and life in general. Ministry leaders don’t stay places long because it hurts less when those you serve reject you or betray you if you haven’t known them long and you don’t have much invested in them. Marriages are short term agreements instead of lifetime covenants because it’s easier to find someone else than to work through the hurt caused by someone who knows you deeply. We are connected in more social networking ways than ever before in the history of humanity, but we “connect” through the barrier of technology. There is a very thin line between love and hate because great hate is usually only generated by a betrayal of great love. Some people learn this and decide it’s not worth the risk.

I was reminded of this today when my feelings were bruised in a ministry situation by someone I have known for a long time. My first thought was, “That wouldn’t have bothered me so bad if I weren’t at my home church and it hadn’t been someone who knows me.” Knowing and being known opens us up to hurt. And no one wants to be hurt. As humans, our favorite idol is our own pleasure and happiness, and we will often decrease our own happiness to decrease our risk for pain.

But then I thought about Jesus, the One who Scripture claims knows all of our pain and temptation yet never sinned. I thought about how painful it must have been for Him to be betrayed by Judas, one of his disciples, someone He had poured Himself into for three years. Three years is a long term relationship in our time, and they had been together almost constantly in those three years. They shared life together. They knew one another and were known by one another. Three years worth of betrayal were felt in that kiss in the garden.

But even more than that, how much did it hurt for Him to have been rejected by His chosen people? Jesus had known and had been known by His people since the time of Abraham. For eternity, before the foundation of the world, Jesus knew His creation, He knit them together one at a time in their mother’s wombs. He revealed himself in creation; day after day for thousands of years, He put himself out there, opened himself up to the risk of rejection.

Then He came to earth and was rejected. Rejected by His chosen people. Rejected by the very creation into which He had poured His own Image. Rejected by His physical family, who declared Him to be crazy and warned towns to steer clear of Him. Rejected by His spiritual family in the Temple, by those who knew the most about Him but really didn’t know Him at all. He was literally rejected to death.

Jesus knew the thin line between love and hate, but He determined that his hate of sin and separation from His creation outweighed his love for himself and his own happiness. His love for His Bride and His Father outweighed His hate for His own pain and suffering.

So when we face the tough times in relationships, those times when we are hurt, rejected, betrayed, how do we handle it? Do we run away, protecting ourselves and our hearts, or do we remember that Jesus stuck with it for the long haul? When our hearts are breaking, do we remember that Jesus poured Himself into relationships for centuries and was rejected, yet still stuck with it?

When we have times that we feel like no one understands the pain we feel, remember that Jesus invested more time in relationships than any of us, ALL of time, and experienced an equal amount of heartbreak.

He knows what heartbreak feels like and He wants to heal yours.

Close Friends or Entangled Hearts?

The following is a critical review of the article cited below.

Dykas, Ellen. “Close Friends or Entangled Hearts? Joys and Dangers in Woman-to-Woman Friendships.” Journal of Biblical Counseling 21, no. 1 (2006): 24-28.

The subjects of codependency and female relationships have been thrust to the forefront of Christian discussion in recent years. With the cultural acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle, women who struggle with unhealthy relationships now have society’s approval to follow their desires to their natural, fleshly ends. Such unhealthy—and when we are honest and biblical in description, sinful—relationships do not occur overnight. They are the culmination of weeks, months, and even years of compromises and concessions in standards and integrity. Author Ellen Dykas points out that “lesbianism simply adds touch and sexual involvement to an already present idolatrous heart entanglement” (24). Dykas’s work addresses the recognition and correction of one of the foundational stumbling blocks encountered by those seeking healthy interaction between women: creating an idol of the heart out of a friendship.

Dykas begins her work with a personal story about the desire for heart-to-heart connections with other people. She points out that God created people to desire connections and relationships. Personal connections are how we relate to one another and how we relate to God. A problem arises when people begin desiring relationships with one another more than a relationship with God; relationships that were once healthy quickly become “a dark counterfeit” (24). The focus of this article is answering the question, “What is a ‘godly friendship’ for women?” (24).

The answer to this question is sought by first giving an example of what a godly friendship is not. Dykas shows how women “are drawn to care, to initiate nurture, concern, and emotional intimacy with others” (24) and how this natural tendency can draw them into entangling relationships. Dykas says most previous attention has been given to women making their families the objects of their idolatry. Today the focus has shifted more to “how women get entangled in people worship with other women” (24).

The summary case study given in the article gives a clear and thorough example of how a relationship that appears godly and positive can quickly become an entanglement of hearts. The behavior exhibited by the two women in the story has become frighteningly common within ministry, and while this specific behavior is the focus of this article, Dykas accurately points out that “idolatry is not active in only one kind of person, but in all human hearts” (25). After describing a clear example of a heart entanglement, Dykas moves on to discuss what the Bible says about such relationships. She points out that these types of relationships are addictive and easy to fall into because they often begin in innocent and even religious ways.

The second section of the article poses questions for the woman who may be wondering if she is involved in an entangled friendship. While there are questions to ask and Scriptures to read, Dykas does a good job of reminding the reader that it is an active communication with God that will ultimately begin to reveal entanglements and idolatry in the heart. After asking several difficult questions, Dykas realizes that the reader/counselee may feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable, and she wisely points out that the purpose of such questions of accountability is not condemnation but restoration. She stresses that “the entanglement of an idolatrous friendship is sinful bondage and God wants to destroy it, cleanse you, and bring redemption to bear” (26).

Dykas presents a firm concept of an entangled relationship, and then quickly moves to discussing the characteristics of a healthy relationship. Much like she posed questions that would expose entanglement in the previous section, Dykas gives qualities supported by Scripture that show how women will behave toward one another when they are involved in healthy, godly relationships. The qualities discussed address the relationship between two women, the relationship each woman has with God, and the relationships each woman has with the other people in each of their lives. The theme of this list brings the reader to understand that a relationship, when healthy, moves each woman to a greater knowledge of and intimacy with Christ.

Sequentially Dykas has moved from the character of an entangled friendship, to the character of a healthy friendship, to step-by-step instructions of how to end unhealthy friendships and finally shows the reader how to enter into and maintain relationships that are both healthy and godly. As with all sin “that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1), the steps for breaking free of this particular sin are: confession, repentance and accountability, open communication concerning the sin, trusting in God for forgiveness and redemption, and growth and discipleship through biblical study (27).

Dykas concludes the article by giving “five stepping stones that help in understanding God’s view for friendship” (27). These steps include intense Bible study, honest identification of sin, godly interaction with others, daily reflection and examination of the heart, and consideration of Jesus as the model for interaction with others. In conclusion, Dykas ends with this powerful statement which is the key to becoming victorious over any sin: “A deep-hearted, fervent love for others will only flow from hearts that have been purified by obedience to the truth” (28)! By confronting the why questions instead of simply examining the what questions of behavior, Dykas reinforces this foundational issue; all sin is a heart matter, and when our focus is Christ and not the things of this world, entangling sin of all types will lose power over the souls of man.

This is a well thought-out, solidly written article that gives clear biblical instruction concerning the whys and the hows of both godly and sinful relationships. While the article is geared specifically towards relationships between women, the biblical principles are given in a way that they can be shared in the correction of any ungodly relationship between people of either gender. The strength of this article is the logical progression and presentation of the author’s ideas.

By first setting up the idolatrous relationship, Dykas allows the reader to bring to mind a specific relationship in her life. Whether that relationship is a personal one or the relationship of a client, family member, or friend, by giving the problem first, Dykas gives the reader the opportunity to put a personal face to the issue. No longer is this simply an article in a journal, but it now has a personal quality for anyone who is facing this issue. Giving the problem first draws in the reader and encourages her to continue reading. As she continues to read, she will find the solution and the steps to ultimate healing and redemption. Those steps are addressed in the following order: here is the current situation, here is the ultimate resolution to the problem, and here are the steps to follow to get from point A to point B.

While Dykas gives many insightful personal observations, it is her use of biblical writing that supports all thoughts and opinions on specific Scripture. This is a quality piece because the author is not simply giving personal insights and advice but is instead showing that Scripture is the solution to the problem. It is quite easy to argue with a counselor who is giving personal anecdotes. It is much more difficult to argue with Scripture, and Dykas adamantly encourages the reader to use Scripture when dealing with sins of the heart. This is particularly clear in two separate points made in the article. The first is a point made in the discussion concerning moving out of entanglement and into holiness. Many people desire to keep a friendship that has been previously sinful. The thought can be, “But this person really is my friend, and God made me to have friends and to love other people!” But Dykas points out that while God redeems us individually when we have become entangled in sin, “this is not a promise that an idolatrous relationship with be transformed this side of heaven” (27). This is a concept many people have a difficult time grasping, and it is encouraging to know that the reality of idolatrous relationships is being addressed by biblical counselors today.

The second point that is particularly important in the current culture is to use biblical vocabulary when discussing issues with people. Our culture has given everything a psychological label and made all behavior and thoughts somehow the fault of our upbringing or environment. True healing can only begin to occur when someone realizes that they have a sin of idolatry and not an issue of codependency. Healing, redemption, and restoration cannot begin until someone recognizes and acknowledges behavior as sin, and changing one’s vocabulary is often the first step in that process.

This article is well-written, and can be used as a clearly planned starting point for anyone addressing the issue of idolatrous entanglements. If women can get their relationships with Christ back to a healthy standing, sins of the heart can often be prevented from becoming painful sins of action. While this article focuses specifically on relationships between women, the true theme is the relationships women have with Jesus. The steps to healthy relationships given by Dykas have nothing to do with restoring the sinful relationship; in fact, she clearly points out that sometimes that is simply not God’s plan. The focus, rather, is the relationship each woman has with Christ. When the focus is placed on Him and relationships with Christ are restored, our relationships with one another will be taken care of by Him.