Our God, His People

Hebrews 8:10: “This is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.”

These beautiful words appear several times in Scripture, in both the Old Testament and the New. It really sums up God’s loving plan for us, the relationship He has in mind for us. His ways will be deeply ingrained in us, controlling both our thoughts and our passions. He will be our God, and we will be His people.

On a personal level, this means that He will be mine, and I will be His. On a community level, it means that all those who belong to Jesus Christ will have a more intimate connection than we’ve ever imagined.

When we look at this verse in context, it tells us that “after that time” refers to a new covenant between God and His people, an eternal covenant through the cross of Jesus Christ. The end of the passage says that this new covenant is eternal because in it all our sins are forgiven; by contrast, in the old covenant, complete obedience was required. But through Jesus, disobedience is forever forgiven–and not only that, but obedience will follow because God will embed His law in our hearts and minds!

No wonder it’s called the Good News! This is what it’s all about.

Published in: on July 31, 2007 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Dad’s Reflections On Cal

And now, the writing about Cal Ripken, Jr. that I mentioned yesterday, composed by my dad: 

When our family moved to Maryland in October, 1980 our three sons were 7, 5 and 3. It was the month before the presidential election and as it turned out, only three months remained in the Carter presidency. The Mormon temple near Connecticut Avenue was brand new. When we purchased a home, our realtor gushed about how fortunate we were to get a 12.78% interest rate. There were still pastures off Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg with herds of cows.

And it was the fall before Cal Ripken, Jr. began his major league career.

Camden Yards in Baltimore is a beautiful baseball park, but Memorial Stadium was the home of great baseball. We went to several games a year, and our boys grew up watching Cal Ripken. Along with hundreds of other kids, they knew not only where the players parked their cars under the stadium. They recognized their cars. After every game, our boys wanted to go around to the side of the stadium and wait for the players to come out. Sometimes we wouldn’t let them, but a lot of times we would.

One night we were standing in the parking lot long after the game was over. The boys had waited by the gate, seen several of the players and gotten some autographs. It was late and I was ready to go home, but the boys insisted that Cal’s car had not left. It was so late that as we stood there the lights inside the stadium were turned off.

I told my sons that we had to go, and as we were leaving, Cal’s car started edging out of the gate. We were about 20 yards away and as the boys started to run toward the car, we saw a girl–I guessed at the time a 10 year-old–and what must have been her little brother. From about 10 yards away we watched from the shadows (the parking lot lights had also been turned off) as they approached Cal’s car (if you’re wondering where their parents were, so did I, but let’s not mess up the story).

What we saw next was more amazing to me than any of Cal Ripken’s homers, great plays or Iron Man streaks. The girl had in her hands a stack (not a few, but a stack!) of snapshots and she and her little brother pointed to the pictures and told Cal about them as he looked at each one. It was not a perfunctory, quick look that says “Yeah, that’s nice.” He took time to look at each one, and talked to them about what they were looking at together.

When the girl and her brother left, we walked quickly up to the car. I don’t think he knew we’d been standing there. As he signed my sons’ baseballs, cards and caps, I said, “Cal, that was really cool,” and he actually looked embarrassed, as if he’d been caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to do.

Jason, Nathan, Dylan and I are going to Cooperstown this weekend to see Cal Ripken, Jr. inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. We’re leaving Friday morning and coming back Monday. A lot of glowing words will be spoken about his career, and deservedly so.

As for me, while I’m standing in the heat at Cooperstown with no telling how many thousands of other people, I’ll be honoring a guy who took the time to look at pictures with two children after a long night’s work when there no cameras or sportswriters around. And I’ll honor a great player who over and over again had time for my three sons.

Published in: on July 30, 2007 at 7:24 am  Comments (1)  

Iron Man Ripken Gets His Due

I’m tired of hearing about sports scandals: Barry Bonds closing in on Hank Aaron’s record for all-time home runs while using illegal substances; NBA ref Tim Donaghy gambling on games he was officiating; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick being indicted for running a dogfighting ring… Even the Tour de France now has its own scandals!

Let’s hear more about guys like Cal Ripken, Jr., the Baltimore Orioles shortstop (and later third baseman) who today is being inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. While these other men are honored for their athletic ability and dishonored by their lack of character, Ripken is a man who is being honored today for both his athletic ability and his character.

It’s difficult to try and describe the man and his career. You can find out a ton of stuff about him by clicking here. Sure, he shattered one of the most impressive records in sports history, playing in an unbelievable 2,632 consecutive games (I’m still sore from a softball doubleheader two days ago!). Yeah, he whacked 3,184 hits and 431 homers during his 21-year career. And of course he was one of the best defensive shortstops there’s ever been.

But there was so much more than that. He’s a man with class, a sports star who is actually humble and cares about the fans (tomorrow I’ll post a piece written by my dad that illustrates that point). Then, of course, there’s the fact that he’s a big fan of Mexican food. In Ripken’s list of his 10 favorite things about Maryland, one item was Ocean City, and another was the La Tolteca restaurant in Bel Air. (Never been to that one, but the one in Salisbury rocks.)

Growing up watching Ripken play shortstop for the O’s was one of the elements that defined my childhood. When we played in the backyard or in a league, he modeled everything we aspired to. And when we talked with him in the parking lot after O’s games, he was so friendly, gracious, and unassuming that he gave us something to aspire to off the field as well.

One time in 2000 I had the opportunity to hang out in the Orioles locker room. I was going to college in Baltimore and was writing a paper about pitcher Mike Timlin, a Christian who was with the Orioles at that time. In the locker room before the game, I had interviewed Timlin (and prayed with him, which was pretty cool), and talked with some other players and coaches, like Eddie Murray. Lingering around and taking notes, I realized that the only ones left in the locker room with me were Harold Baines and Cal Ripken. I walked over to them and asked if they had any good Mike Timlin stories they could share with me. Ripken suggested that my best shot would be to throw that question at the other bullpen pitchers. Yeah, so that much was pretty obvious. But I was thinking, “Duh, I know that–but you’re Cal Ripken, so of course I’m gonna ask you something!”

The following year, in 2001, Ripken announced that he was retiring at the end of the season. So my whole family–parents, brothers, spouses, significant others, niece, etc.–all piled into a van and drove to Yankee Stadium in New York City to watch one of his last games, on September 23, 2001. The O’s lost, but it was great getting to watch Ripken play one last time.

In the days since he last graced the field donning an Orioles jersey, Cal has spent much of his time investing in young ballplayers. His investment gives us hope that the world of sports is not inevitably doomed to be wracked with spiraling scandals. As long as he continues to teach kids to Play Baseball the Ripken Way, we can be sure that his legacy will be much more than just another plaque hanging in Cooperstown.

Published in: on July 29, 2007 at 7:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Blogosphere Break

For the next couple weeks, I’m taking a break from cyberspace.  We need breaks from things to recharge and refocus, and that includes blogging.  So Carolyn and I are taking some time off together these next few days.

Even though I’m checking out of the blogosphere for several days, I didn’t want y’all getting bored.  So I’ve programmed some posts to appear each day.  They include thoughts on Bible passages I’ve been reflecting on lately, links to some videos and blogs, thoughts about different things, and other random stuff.  There’s even an interview with a special guest preacher who will be appearing soon at CrossWay, so be sure to keep checking in!

I’ll check in from time to time–I mean, I’m not going all legalistic or anything.  But if you leave a comment and don’t get a quick response, now you know why.

Let me leave you with one question: What is it you’re doing a lot that–even though you might really enjoy it–it would help to recharge your batteries to take a break for a little while?

Published in: on July 28, 2007 at 7:29 am  Leave a Comment  

CrossWay On Purpose – Session 6

We had 10 present for Session 6 of CrossWay On Purpose.  We had some of the best discussion we’ve had since we started this Bible study.  There was a great spirit to the group and an obvious and earnest desire to move forward and implement the things we’ve been discovering in the Scriptures.

We examined 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:11; 5:16-18; Hebrews 10:24-25; 13:7,17; 1 Peter 2:9-10; 1 John 1:5-7; 4:7-21.  Here’s what we found in these passages about the church–who we are to be and what we are to do:

  • produce works by faith
  • do labor prompted by love
  • endure
  • be inspired by hope in Christ
  • be patient with hope in our Lord Jesus Christ
  • stick with it in hard times
  • be in prayer constantly
  • we are always in the sight of God our Father
  • encourage each other
  • build each other up
  • comfort and edify each other
  • give thanks in all circumstances
  • be joyful always
  • pray, pray, pray
  • consider (think prayerfully) how to provoke one another to love and good deeds
  • love
  • do good deeds
  • meet together-and not give up
  • assemble ourselves together purposefully
  • encourage and exhort each other
  • think about each other
  • pray for our leaders
  • imitate the faith and way of life of our leaders
  • obey and submit to our leaders
  • we are a chosen people
  • we are a royal priesthood
  • we are a royal nation
  • we are God’s special possession
  • we are a peculiar people (KJV)
  • we are called
  • we are to praise God
  • we are the people of God
  • we have received mercy
  • we should freely give mercy
  • we are redeemed
  • we belong to a family
  • we are to show & tell people that they are special because God loves them
  • we are to declare God’s message that God is light
  • we are to walk in the light
  • we have fellowship with Jesus
  • we are cleansed from all sin by the blood of Jesus
  • we are to love one another
  • we are born of God
  • we know God
  • we believe Jesus is the Son of God
  • our response to God is love because He first loved us
  • Jesus is the propitiation for our sins
  • we live through Jesus
  • we ought to love one another
  • we are loved by God
  • God have given us His Spirit
  • we live in Him
  • He lives in us
  • testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world
  • God dwells in us, and we in God
  • we know God’s love
  • we rely on God’s love
  • we believe God loves us
  • we are like Jesus
  • we are to have no fear
  • we love because He loves us
  • we must love others

After the study we talked for another 45 minutes, covering everything from how to strategically connect with different groups of people to the best way to follow up with guests.  We closed with one of our participants leading us in prayer.

We’re taking some down time for a couple weeks, during which we will not be meeting on Wednesday nights.  But we’ll be back on August 15 at 6:30 p.m.  We’re down to just a couple passages in Revelation, but they’re lengthy passages which may take another two or three weeks.  Then we’ll start digesting all these Scriptures we’ve been feeding on, and start exercising!!!

Published in: on July 27, 2007 at 5:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Cyberguest Numero 1,000

Our church website has had its 1,000th hit!  And our fortunate 1,000th visitor wins…well, a visit to a cool website!

Published in: on July 26, 2007 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Quick Explanation

If you clicked on “CrossWay On Purpose” in that last post, it might look like nothing happened. But it did. Try it again and scroll down and you’ll see.

(The link took you to all the entries in the category “CrossWay On Purpose,” of which that post itself was the latest entry, so the screen might look the same until you scroll down. Clear as mud?)

Published in: on July 26, 2007 at 6:48 am  Leave a Comment  

CrossWay On Purpose Goes Into Extra Innings

Last night at CrossWay On Purpose we had a great discussion.  The Bible study is supposed to end at 8:00 p.m., and I admit that we initially went over because I kept it going, but everyone was so into the discussion that they kept it going until about 8:45!

The fact that everyone stuck around so long says a lot.  Actually, they didn’t just stick around–they were very much into what was being discussed!  What also says a lot is what was being said.  We talked about various things that we need to do in order to be more effective at connecting with people.

One of the really neat things was that so many people really took initiative in the conversation, which revealed what was on their heart.  Some shared ideas about evangelistic efforts, while others shared thoughts about connecting with visitors, and others contributed suggestions for ministering to those whose paths we cross.  It was so neat to see people getting excited about the work that lies ahead of us!  And it was also exciting to hear some of the insights people had about who we are and who our community is.

I’ll share more about this later on when I post the summary of last night’s study.

Published in: on July 26, 2007 at 6:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Doubleheader #2

Last night our softball team (“The Green Machine,” a combination of The Gathering Tree and CrossWay Church) played our second doubleheader.  In this strangest of seasons, we hadn’t played a game for about five weeks.  This one was against SonRise.  We lost both games again, but we sure had a lot of fun doing it!  The first game was pretty lopsided.

Halfway through the second game, it was looking like it would be more disastrous than the first.  But then something happened and both our offense and defense came alive.  We lost again, but it was much, much closer than the first game.  We even had an inning or two where we had to take the field because of the eight-run rule (that is, we scored eight runs, the maximum allowed by one team in an inning).

Maybe next time….

Published in: on July 25, 2007 at 9:20 am  Comments (5)  

An Important Find for Biblical Archeology

This afternoon while I was looking for something on a website, I saw a headline that caught my attention.  There was recently a very interesting discovery at the British Museum, a piece of biblical archeology which verifies a minor detail in the Book of Jeremiah–the verification of a minor detail is a major piece of evidence.  You can read the short but interesting article by clicking here.

Published in: on July 24, 2007 at 1:39 pm  Leave a Comment