On Wings Of Eagles

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Moore Finds Courage to Lead in an Apostolic Letter

2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Game 5 (November 1, 2015): Kansas City Royals 7, New York Mets 2 (12 innings)

It might have been Game 5, but the showdown between Kansas City and New York in the Big Apple had the feel of something much bigger.

Down three games to one, the New York Mets were fighting to keep alive their hope for a first World Series title in 29 years. For the Royals, the stakes were equally high as they were trying to clinch the club’s first championship in 30 years.

Throughout the first eight innings, it was the Mets that seemed poised to extend its life another game. Curtis Granderson hit a solo home run in the first inning and Lucas Duda drove in Granderson on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning while starting pitcher Matt Harvey cooled off Kansas City’s hot bats.

But with two late comeback victories already during the World Series, the Royals proceeded to make history with a two-run ninth inning followed by a five-run 12th inning that led to a 7-2 win and the championship.

The result was particularly satisfying for Dayton Moore. Back in 2006, he was the assistant GM for the Atlanta Braves and loved the job he had held for 12 years. When the Royals called to offer him the General Manager position in Kansas City, he nearly turned down the opportunity. Moore had previously turned down two other teams, but this time thought long and hard about the chance to move closer to his hometown in western Kansas.

Ultimately, it was a phone call to his spiritual mentor that helped him accept the job. Tim Cash, the Braves team chaplain, had some simple, but powerful words for Moore.

“You were born an original,” Cash said. “You don’t want to die a copy.”

The clincher was when Cash quoted a passage from one of the Apostle Paul’s letters to his protégé Timothy:

“For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

There was a lot to fear taking the job in Kansas City. It was a small market that had not experienced much success since winning the World Series way back in 1985. When Moore took over, the Royals had finished above .500 just seven times during that time frame, and it didn’t get much easier. The club suffered through another seven losing seasons before breaking through in a big way during the 2014 season but fell short in a heartbreaking seven-game World Series against the San Francisco Giants.

But Kansas City bounced back and found its way to the Fall Classic despite some close calls and near misses that could have derailed Moore’s long-term plan. Regardless of the outcome, Moore has remained steadfast in his desire to impact players’ and coaches’ lives.

“Being in position like this is somewhere between a blessing and a burden,” Moore said. “I didn’t ask to be in this position. In a lot of ways, I have found working at the minor league level in player development to be more fulfilling. But it’s a blessing to do something that you love to do and that you’re passionate about.”

And because of his belief in the message found in 2 Timothy 1:7, Moore was able to transfer his passion into an inspirational if not unlikely success story.

Dear Lord, we thank You that You didn’t give us a spirit of fear. Thank You that we can face any situation knowing You are giving us strength. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Affeldt Finds Focus, Strength in Biblically Inspired Tattoo

John 14:6 (ESV)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Game 4 (October 28, 2012): San Francisco Giants 4, Detroit Tigers 3 (10 innings)

Middle relievers.

They are the most underappreciated yet often most important parts of a Major League Baseball team. While the starting pitchers and the closers get the most attention, it is those less heralded athletes that shore up the key innings that tend to make the biggest impact in tight games.

Jeremy Affeldt understands this dynamic all too well. As one of the San Francisco Giants’ most reliable middle relievers, he found himself in many intense situations throughout the 2012 postseason—perhaps none more so than his appearance in Game 4.

With the game tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Affeldt took the mound in front of a hostile crowd at Comerica Park. The most observant onlooker would have spotted a tattoo on the interior of his left forearm with the words Solus Christus. Affeldt acquired the ink, the first of many, a few months earlier during the previous offseason.

But what did it mean?

Very simply, Solus Christus is Latin for “Christ Alone.” In a subtle way, Affeldt was making a very powerful statement about his religious beliefs based on five key scriptures and their pointed claims about Jesus. First and foremost, Solus Christus is rooted in the words of Christ himself:

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)

Other New Testament verses that inspire this Latin phrase include Acts 4:12 (“there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”), 1 Timothy 2:5 (“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus”), and John 3:36 (“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life”).

“Solus Christus sums up everything for me,” Affeldt once posted on his blog. “When I do something, I do it with the understanding that I do it in Christ. What drives me to be who I am? The answer is Christ. I don’t get to hang with the guy every day like his disciples got to do, but I have His Spirit inside of me. Solus Christus. It’s in Christ that I do the things I do.”

That was the mindset that Affeldt took with him as he entered the eighth inning of a tied ballgame. With those words in plain view as he looked down to adjust his grip on the baseball, he stared down three of Detroit’s most lethal hitters.

A leadoff walk to pinch hitter Avisail Garcia didn’t help matters as Miguel Cabrera approached home plate. Assuredly, Cabrera, one of the game’s biggest home run threats, was looking to give his team the lead with one swing. Instead, Affeldt struck him out with an off-speed pitch.

Next to the plate was the equally dangerous Prince Fielder, but again Affeldt tallied another clutch strikeout. Then finally, the lefty completed the difficult task with a strikeout of Delmon Young. Crisis averted.

But Affeldt wasn’t done. With the game still tied, he returned for the bottom of the ninth and opened with his fourth consecutive strikeout. After Jhonny Peralta hit a long fly ball out to centerfield, Affeldt gave way to yet another relief pitcher looking to keep the Giants in the game.

It took one more inning before San Francisco was able to secure the 4-3 victory and complete the sweep for its second World Series title in three seasons. Affeldt would win yet another championship with the Giants two years later before retiring from Major League Baseball.

“I can’t control what happens after I throw a baseball,” Affeldt said. “So I’ve got to believe that God’s given me a talent to be the best I can possibly be and when I go out there I have done everything that I can possibly do to prepare to pitch that day. Everything else is out of my hands. Ultimately as a believer in Jesus Christ, I believe God has my destiny in my hands.”

And on that fateful day in Detroit, Affeldt was determined that, win or lose, his tattoo (based on John 14:6) would be more than just a fashion statement, but a way of life.

Dear Lord, we thank You that its in You alone. Thank You that in life’s battles we can stand firm because of You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Pettitte Stands Firm on a New Testament Principle

1 Peter 4:11 (ESV)
Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Game 3 (October 31, 2009): New York Yankees 8, Philadelphia Phillies 5

As the New York Yankees entered the third game of the 2009 World Series, they were faced with the unenviable task of trying to wrestle back the home field advantage they had lost back in the Big Apple. Heavy favorites to win the crown, they had shockingly split the first two games against their National League opponent.

But when veteran left-handed pitcher Andy Pettitte took the mound, there was assuredly something else weighing on his mind: redemption.

Two years earlier, Pettitte admitted to twice using human growth hormone back in 2002 to help speed up the recovery of his injured elbow. Even though HGH wasn’t a banned substance at the time, Pettitte still found himself in the crosshairs of negative commentary from the media and opposing fans. Even before his actions were publicly revealed, he quickly knew he needed to reverse course.

“Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped,” Pettitte said in a statement released to The Associated Press. “I wasn’t looking for an edge. I was looking to heal…I have the utmost respect for baseball and have always tried to live my life in a way that would be honorable.”

Being labeled a cheater was especially difficult for someone who was known for being one of Major League Baseball’s most outspoken Christian athletes. One of Pettitte’s favorite scriptures at the time, in fact, was one that spoke to his desire to live above reproach and with the utmost integrity as a representative of Jesus:

“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11)

So as Pettitte warmed up in Philadelphia, home to one of the most unforgiving fan bases, it was no surprise to him or anyone else that the boos and chants began to reverberate throughout Citizens Bank Park. It was Pettitte’s first World Series appearance since the HGH scandal two years earlier, but he was no stranger to the Fall Classic. Pettitte had already won four previous championships with the Yankees and had played for his hometown Astros in the club’s first ever World Series.

This time was different. And Pettitte knew it.

In the bottom of the second inning, the Phillies got the early advantage thanks to Jayson Werth’s home run followed by a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly. Pettitte settled down and the Yankees fought back with seven runs of their own to take a 7-4 lead. Even Pettitte got into the act with his first career postseason RBI.

The Yankees held onto the lead and took Game 3, 8-5. Pettitte won Game 6 as well and extended his record for most postseason wins with 18 en route to his fifth and final World Series ring. A few years later, the Yankees retired his #46 jersey.

While some contrarian opinions about Pettitte may never change, he takes solace in the fact that his mistake was largely forgiven within the Christian community and that his opportunities to share his story in churches and organizations actually increased after his contrite admission.

“It’s absolutely amazing what happens when you’re consistent in your walk and you’re consistent in the way you live your life,” Pettitte said. “It doesn’t matter what’s happened in your life. I’ve shown that with what happened with the HGH situation…I literally thought that when that happened I’d wasted my whole life…and that I’d messed it up with a bad decision that I made. But God knows my heart. God knows that I’m telling the truth in everything I said and I think that He’s totally honored me and blessed me in that and the way I handled it.”

Ultimately, his embrace of 1 Peter 4:11 and his faith provided the strength that carried him throughout that entire World Series and helped him find the redemption he craved.

Dear Lord, we pray that we would do the right thing no matter how difficult it may be. Give us the strength to carry Your good news to the world around us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Sermon on the Mount Inspires Jackie Robinson to Greatness

Matthew 5:39 (ESV)
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Game 2 (October 1, 1947): New York Yankees 10, Brooklyn Dodgers 3

The 1947 World Series featured a much-anticipated matchup between cross-town rivals. The powerhouse New York Yankees were making their 15th appearance in the Fall Classic while the Brooklyn Dodgers, a club that had dominated the early days of Major League Baseball, were enjoying a post-war resurgence.

Thanks to a groundbreaking athlete named Jackie Robinson, this Fall Classic was especially significant for reasons that would have long-lasting societal implications.

Earlier that year, Robinson had broken the baseball color line when the Dodgers started him at first base on April 15. After a phenomenal season, he was named National League Rookie of the Year.

But it wasn’t easy. Early in the season, Robinson faced opposition from his teammates, a barrage of racial epithets from opponents’ managers, players, and fans, and even violent targeting on the field.

Robinson overcame all of those incredible obstacles and by season’s end found himself on the game’s largest stage in the nation’s grandest city. In Game 1, he became the first black athlete to play in the World Series. Then, in Game 2, Robinson once again made history as the first black player with a base hit and an RBI in the MLB championship.

Those big moments, however, likely would not have happened without the foresight and spiritual guidance of Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. Known for making decisions based on his knowledge of the Bible, Rickey believed that God had afforded him this influential position, in part, so that he could help desegregate professional baseball. He simply needed to find the perfect athlete to join him in the fight.

Ironically, fighting, at least in the physical sense, was the last thing Rickey wanted his newfound star to do. To make sure he picked the right man for the job, Rickey read Robinson a powerful verse from the iconic Sermon on the Mount:

“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39)

“I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back,” Rickey famously told Robinson.

And that’s what Robinson did throughout the 1947 season leading up to the World Series and those first two games where he further etched his name in history. The Dodgers ultimately lost Game 2 10-3 and the Yankees won the series in seven games. But the real winner was Major League Baseball and the entire nation.

Robinson went on to win the 1949 National League MVP award, appear in six All-Star Games, and win a World Series title with the Dodgers in 1956. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and his #42 jersey was eventually retired throughout the entire league. On the annually celebrated Jackie Robinson Day (April 15th), every Major League athlete, coach, and manager dons that number in honor of one of the game’s true legends.

“The thing about him was that he was doing something for someone else,” Robinson later said of Rickey. “I know, because he did so much for me.”

And thanks to his following the wisdom of the Sermon on the Mount, Robinson did even more for the game of baseball and the many athletes that would ultimately follow in his sizeable footsteps.

Dear Lord, we thank You for those who stand true and strong on Your word. Help us to study Your word and base our life on it. I the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sandy Koufax Skips Start to Observe Torah-Inspired Holiday

Leviticus 16:30 (ESV)
For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins.

Game 1 (October 6, 1965): Minnesota Twins 5, Los Angeles Dodgers 1

On October 6, 1965, most baseball fans assumed that superstar lefty Sandy Koufax would take the mound as the starting pitcher in Game 1 of the World Series. He had more than earned his right to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Minnesota Twins. Koufax was the reigning Cy Young Award winner and had pitched a perfect game earlier that season.

But instead, Koufax told manager Walt Alston that he wouldn’t be available. Just like every year before, Koufax elected not to compete on Yom Kippur —a significant religious holiday that is commonly recognized as the holiest day for Jewish people.

On this “Day of Atonement” that lasts nearly 26 hours, Jews are to abstain from food and drink, as well as other common daily practices. Yom Kippur also includes five prayer services and concludes with a festive evening meal. The holiday finds its roots in the Torah and serves as an observance of Leviticus 16:30: “…on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins.”

The specific command to abstain from work is found in Leviticus 23:32: “It is a day of sabbath rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.”

Initially, Koufax’s decision was seen in a negative light considering that his replacement Don Drysdale struggled to slow down the Twins’ offense. The Dodgers lost that opening game, 8-2.

The team’s misfortune continued the next day as Koufax took the mound for Game 2 and likewise failed to slow down Minnesota’s bats. The Dodgers lost 5-1 and took a two-game deficit back to Los Angeles.

Unfazed, the Dodgers came back to win the next three games including a spectacular effort from Koufax in Game 5, which resulted in a 7-0 shutout of the Twins. Then, with the series tied 3-3, he returned to the mound for his third start in eight days and having only two days rest from his previous appearance. Back at Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis where he had sat out to observe Yom Kippur, Koufax crafted a masterful three-hit complete game shutout in Game 7. The Dodgers won 2-0 and clinched the title.

For the second time in his career, Koufax’s performance earned him the World Series MVP award. But it was his inspiration to Jewish fans in Los Angeles and across the nation that has outlasted his on-the-field heroics. John Thorn, an official historian for Major League Baseball and son of two Holocaust survivors, told ESPN that Koufax’s decision to honor his faith sent an important message to the Jewish population.

“What struck me [about his decision], as an 18-year-old, was that America must be a very great place,” Thorn said. “That a Jew cannot only profess his faith openly but take a stance for his religion in opposition to the national religion – and baseball is America's national religion.”

But for Koufax, it wasn’t a big deal at the time nor was it anything he ever regretted.

“There was no hard decision for me," Koufax once said. “It was just a thing of respect. I wasn't trying to make a statement, and I had no idea that it would impact that many people.”

It may have seemed like a simple observance of one of the Torah’s most revered holidays, but for many people like Thorn and other Jewish baseball fans across the country, Koufax’s act of obedience was very significant and remains an endearing piece of the legendary athlete’s legacy.

Dear Lord, we pray that we would be obedient to the things of You. Help us to stand firm in our faith and honor You with our actions. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

What will we do about it?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The Ninety-Mile beach is a beautiful beach on the North island of New Zealand. Surrounded by dunes, flat sand and an active Tasman Sea, it attracts all kinds of people. However, it is far from being a safe place, especially if someone decides to swim in the sea, as did the grandson and granddaughter of a fisherman aged 55, that fatal day on Dec 29, 2009. Both of these kids encountered trouble while swimming. The current was too strong for them, and before they knew it they had swallowed a good quantity of saltwater.

Without hesitation, their grandfather jumped into the water to come to their rescue. A beach-goer was able to rescue the granddaughter, but the grandson was in real trouble as the current had him in its grip. The only thing the grandfather could do was to hold his grandson above the water, while his own head was underwater, waiting for a rescuer. After some tough minutes, the grandson was saved, but the grandfather didn't make it. He sacrificed his life for those he loved.

May we all learn from this grandfather about what love truly means. Let's take advantage of each day that has been given to us to exercise this love in its fullest vigor. Maybe we will wake up from our slumber and notice that the world around us hungers for pure selfless love!

What will we do about it?

Dear Lord, thank You for sacrificing Your life for us. Help our eyes be open to the world around us. May we wake up and notice those in need around us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Just one nail

John 10:10 (ESV)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

I came across a powerful parable written by a Haitian pastor illustrating to his congregation the need for total commitment to the Lord.

A certain man wanted to sell his house for two thousand dollars. Another man wanted very badly to buy it but couldn't afford the full price the owner was asking. After much bargaining, however, he agreed to sell the house to the poor man for half the original price -- along with just one stipulation: He would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.

After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So the first owner went out, found the carcass of a dead dog and hung it from the single nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.

The Haitian pastor concluded that "If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ's habitation."

The devil has only come to steal, kill and destroy. He can be very crafty and he would love nothing more than to steal from us our very inhabitance in the Lord. Let's ask the Lord to reveal any pegs we may be leaving for the devil today and take back all that belongs to us -- for this truly is the season of repentance!

Dear Lord, help us to not give Satan even one nail in our life. Help us to look to You to help us clean out our house for You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.