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Joel Zumaya, a hard-throwing pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, fractured his elbow pitching on Monday night against the Minnesota Twins.  This article on the Detroit Free Press talks about his injury and his thoughts after learning that though it is a season-ending injury, he will be able to pitch again.  After reading the piece, I thought of three things I would say to Joel if I had the opportunity.

First, the article’s title is “Joel Zumaya hopes to return next spring”.  To that, I say, “Joel, hope in Christ alone.”  All things in this world fade away.  There will come a spring that you will not spend in Lakeland, Florida getting ready for a season of playing baseball.  A life worth living is a life lived to display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, which is the ultimate purpose for the existence of everything. Living to that end will be the path of finding true joy, whether God allows you more seasons or not.

Second, if baseball is taken away from you, God means for it to be a way of pointing to the only thing that will truly satisfy your heart’s desires.  All the idols of this world are worthless and those who love them become like them… deaf, blind, empty and dead.  But sometimes we don’t know what we are idolizing and it takes God removing what we’ve put in His rightful place to realize how backwards we are living.  Suffering exists as a means of giving us more of God while weaning us off the idols of our hearts.  All we need in life is God.  We were made to see and enjoy and proclaim the glory of God.  Anything else we live for will always leave us empty.

Third, Joel said, “I felt like I had no one on my side.”  To that, I say, “When Jesus was taking the final steps of His path towards the cross, he was all alone.  The crowds were against him, the religious leaders were against him, his best friends had deserted him and one of them even denied knowing him.  In fact, even God The Father forsook His own Son at the cross.  Jesus knows what it is like to be utterly alone.”  1 Peter 3.18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God”.  Through Christ’s suffering, God’s enemies were made His sons.  Christ’s suffering enabled us to regain fellowship with God.   So, Joel, whether you are experiencing the joy of playing baseball or the pain of having it taken away, anyone who believes in Christ alone and pursues their joy in God alone are rich beyond comprehension and have so much to live for.

So, Joel, believe that Jesus Christ, the Righteous Son of God, died for all our sins and conquered death by rising eternally triumphant over all his enemies and that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy in the fellowship with the One True God, both in this life and one to come.

“‘Come unto me,’ he says, ‘and I will give you.’  You say, ‘Lord, I cannot give you anything.’  He does not want anything.  Come to Jesus, and he says, ‘I will give you.’  Not what you give to God, but what he gives to you, will be your salvation.  ‘I will give you‘ — that is the gospel in four words.

Will you come and have it?  It lies open before you.”

~ C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), I:175.  Italics original

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

Father, we know it is good to give thanks to you, to sing praises to your name, to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness throughout our days, for you, O Lord, have us glad by your works and at the work of your hands we sing for joy!  How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are unsearchable and your ways inscrutable!  We are exceedingly glad that you reign and that your throne is established from of old and you are everlasting.  We declare to the nations this day your glories unending!  For you are great and greatly to be praised!  You alone are God!  All the gods and idols of this world are worthless.  Merciful Father, help us to see that they have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear. God we are here, asking for you to shower us with your grace to see that the things of this world are worthless, the work of human hands.  Help us to see that those who trust in them become like them.  Lord God of our salvation, it is NOT to these that we have come, but to you for you have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth or you had formed the earth, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.  So teach us this morning from the depths of your Word.  We need your Spirit to help us this day.  We cannot understand in and of ourselves, so upon you we wait… You tell us that those who wait upon you will not be put to shame, so make us to know your ways and teach us your paths.  Lead us in your Truth and teach us for you are the God of our salvation and upon you we will wait all the day long.

Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.  Remember not the countless sins of our youth, nor our daily transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember your people and for Your Name’s Sake, pardon our guilt for it is great!!  We pray that you would turn to us and be gracious to us.  Guard our souls this day and keep our minds from wandering.  Let us see Christ in ways we never dreamt possible.  Let us hear His voice in ways we never have experienced.  Let those who are unrepentant hear you beckon, “Come, you poor and needy, weak and wounded, Come to the Everlasting Rest!”  Open all our hearts with the Sword of Your Truth.  Break the pride that dwells deep inside with the weight of your glory and your beauty.  Stamp out the false humilities, vanities and love of self by the power of your Spirit through Christ’s precious blood!  We thank you for Christ and his work on our behalf on the cross.  Unstop our ears and unharden our hearts that we may hear him, follow him, cling to him and satisfy ourselves in Him alone.  O Merciful Shepherd, blind your flock this morning with your glory!  Unveil your glory to your people this hour.  Come to us in power and in truth!  We pray all this and even more than we can imagine asking in Jesus’ precious and glorious name. Amen.

9Marks has an excellent post today titled “The Scariest Word in Pastoral Ministry” by Mike McKinley.  The word is “bifurcation”, which means a split growing over time.  Mike says, “They [pastors] began to say and teach and proclaim one thing to the world, while doing and loving a very different thing in their private life.  Their work as a pastor began to become disconnected from their personal lives.  It became more like a job to be done; it just happened to be a job where you had to talk about God.”

He gives 5 questions to ask yourself to evaluate if a “bifurcation” is beginning in your life:

1. Do you study God’s word and theology with a heart devoid of worship?

2. Are you well known by anyone else?

3. Do you assume that if other people approve of you, God approves of you?

4. Do you find yourself condeming sin publicly, even as you indulge it privately?

5. Do you do the work of the ministry without passion for Christ’s glory?

Read it and spend some time in prayer with your Bible open evaluating your heart.

Lord’s Day Evening from The Valley of Vision:

May the close of an earthly sabbath remind me that the last of them will one day end.
Animate me with joy that in heaven praise will never cease,
that adoration will continue forever,
that no flesh will grow weary,
no congregations disperse,
no affections flag,
no thoughts wander,
no will droop,
but all will be adoring love.
Guard my mind from making ordinances my stay or trust,
from hewing out broken cisterns,
from resting on outward helps.
Wing me though earthly forms to thy immediate presence;
May my feeble prayers show me the emptiness and vanity of my sins;
Deepen in me the conviction that my most fervent prayers,
and my lowly confessions, need to be repented of.
May my best services bring me nearer to the cross,
and prompt me to cry, ‘None but Jesus!’
By thy Spirit give abiding life to the lessons of this day:
May the seed sown take deep root and yield a full harvest.
Let all who see me take knowledge that I have been with thee
that thou has taught me my need as a sinner
hast revealed a finished salvation to me,
hast enriched me with all spiritual blessings,
hast chosen me to show forth Jesus to others,
hast helped me to dispel the mists of unbelief.
O great Creator, mighty Protector, gracious Preserver,
thou dost load me with loving kindnesses,
and hast made me thy purchased possession,
and redeemed me from all guilt;
I praise and bless thee for
my sabbath rest,
my calm conscience,
my peace of heart.