Rumor in Town and Church

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. Al Lang Field is an old Spring training Park in St.Petersburg where Babe Dahlgren probably played.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. Al Lang Field is an old spring training Park in St.Petersburg where Babe Dahlgren probably played.

Babe Dahlgren was enjoying the off season after winning the 1939 World Series with the New York Yankees baseball club. Back home in San Francisco he decided to meet with a local batting instructor for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League to get some friendly tips. When he re-joined the Yankees in St. Petersburg, Florida, for spring training, his manager was suddenly very cold towards Babe. Unbeknownst to Babe, the batting instructor was a long-time enemy of his baseball manager. And now his baseball manager no longer wanted anything to do with Babe, despite his great fielding abilities and steady bat.

After a game where Babe made a rare error, his manager was talking to reporters, when off the top of his head, without an ounce of proof, he said, “If Babe had not been smoking marijuana, he would have made that play.” Thus began the rumor that Babe’s grandson, Matt Dahlgren, writes about in his book,“Rumor in Town.”

In those days smoking marijuana could get you kicked out of baseball for life. Of course the manager had no proof, but his position gave him enough influence and power to get Babe traded to another team, even though he was a great fielder and batter. The rumor seemed to follow Babe as he got sent from team to team. Babe wondered why he kept getting traded while he was leading the league in several categories.

It would be years before Babe would learn that a rumor was going around about him. In a meeting with his team executive, while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was asked about doing drugs. The team executive used the rumor to try to intimidate Babe to go down to the minor leagues.

Babe did his best to try to clear his name of this rumor, but trying to find out who has heard a rumor is like emptying a box of feathers into the wind and then trying to gather them all up. They are impossible to trace and recover.

Matt Dahlgren goes on to write that this Brooklyn Dodger executive was the same man who brought Jackie Robinson into major league baseball and broke the foolish color barrier that had for so long oppressed the United States.

I was perplexed at the inconsistency in this executive, but then I realized he represents the entire human race, even many Christians. On one hand he is a hero who relieved oppression by breaking the color barrier in baseball. On the other hand, he caused oppression for Babe by continuing the rumor. I laid the book down for a moment and prayed that God would keep me from doing like what was done to Babe.

Babe loved the game of baseball and devoted himself to his team, yet his manager turned against him just because Babe talked to someone he did not like. Then others carried the rumor further, and still others used it as a weapon to blackmail and oppress Babe.

We need to be careful that we do not participate in any way by listening to and intentionally or unintentionally spreading rumor that will hurt others, as mentioned in this week’s SS lesson. While we think of political and social oppression and corruption being carried on in the world, let’s be careful we are not carrying it on in the church.

We may think of ourselves as good people, just as the executive probably did, but we may still be doing much harm and hurt by listening to, and even spreading rumors which may deeply hurt a brother or sister in the church! The executive may have thought the rumor to be true, and so may we. But that does not lessen our responsibility before God. Even spreading negative things thatare totally true about someone may make us guilty before God because it is not a loving thing to do and thus not reflective of God’s character. The Apostle Peter reminds us to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude ofsins. (1 Peter 4:8)

When rumors hurt people’s ministry, the cause of God suffers. Satan uses rumors to not only hurt the people the rumor is about, but to also taint or destroy their ministry to the point where their ministry is no longer useful to save lost souls. What a tragedy!

In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:5-6 NLT

Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart. Proverbs 18:8 NLT

It has been said that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me.” Nothing could be farther from the truth! Many people who have been abused physically as well as verbally say they would rather be physically abused than verbally abused. Physical abuse hurts the body but verbal abuse wounds the depths of the soul.

I know that God can foil all of Satan’s rumors and accusations so that all things work together for good to those who Love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Like many others I have had rumors told about me. One time someone told a lie about me right in public. When I was talking it over with a friend to see how I should respond to clear myself of this lie, my friend wisely suggested, “Don’t respond to the rumor. By responding you only give the rumor merit.” I said nothing and later found out that everyone else either forgot what was said that day or was distracted when the person said it, and never heard the rumor at all!

That is how it worked out for me, but I know this is not always the case. This is why when I finished the book and put it down, I asked God to keep me from participating in a rumor that could destroy someone’s life!

The Yankee manager was foolish to let the fact that Babe saw an enemy of his bother him – especially since Babe had nothing but the best intentions in getting batting tips. Jealousy is a silly excuse to start a rumor, but does this happen in the church as well? When we entertain thoughts of jealousy, we may not even realize  when we are gossiping and spreading rumors because what we think in our hearts will come out of our lips. (Matt 12:34)

We need to ask God to give us hearts like His – filled with a love that will never participate in any way in gossip that may hurt another of God’s children, either in the world or in the church.

Go Ahead And Try

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Does the past ever haunt you? Do you ever wish you could go back and do something differently? Every baseball season I am haunted by something that I did, or actually didn’t do when I was 12. Many springs ago, I was a little league baseball player. It was my first year of organized baseball, while my peers had been playing for years. Never having played fastball before, those 11 and 12 year old pitchers threw fastballs by me so fast, that to me, I might as well have been facing Nolan Ryan! While I did manage to get on base a few times by walking, my career hit total equals 1.

Funny thing is, while my parents came to most all my games, they missed the one game where I got a hit. When I hit that ball into right field, my teammates jumped off the bench and started celebrating like we had won the World Series. The other team was looking over at them, trying to figure out what the big deal was. I told the first baseman it was my first hit. Turns out only hit.

Eventually I made it to third base, and what happens next, or didn’t happen is what has haunted me ever since. While I was on third base, the batter squared to bunt. The infield came way in towards home, allowing me to take a gigantic lead off of third base. The pitch landed in the catcher’s mitt. The catcher slowly and carelessly tossed the ball back to the pitcher. That is when I thought, hey, I have such a huge lead off of third base already, and the catcher is throwing the ball back to the pitcher so slowly that if I break for home as soon as the catcher releases the ball, I can steal home before the pitcher throws it back! I waited my chance. Sure enough the next pitch lands in the catcher’s mitt and the catcher repeats his same slow, careless toss back to the pitcher. However I did not break for home. Instead I thought, wait a minute. The coach is not telling me to run, and if I do get out I will look like an idiot in front of everyone. So I never tried to steal home plate. I was afraid to fail, so I never tried. Now, whenever I see Carl Crawford or B.J. Upton steal home plate, I think to myself, I could have done that too if I had just tried. Looking back now, I am sure I could have made it easily. Only my fear of failure kept me back.

I learned a lesson from standing on third base on that spring afternoon so long ago. Go ahead and try! Even if you don’t make it at least you will know, instead of wondering about it for the rest of your life like I have. Many people are afraid to knock on a door to tell somebody about Jesus. When I was 15 years old, I learned my lesson from when I was 12, and went door to door in my neighborhood, asking people if they wanted to study the Bible. Many said “no.” At least now I knew, instead of wondering if they did for the rest of my life. One family said “yes” and later accepted my invitation to come with my family to church! Many people tell me they are afraid to give a Bible study to a friend, because they may not be able to answer a question. I tell them, just do what I do. Say, “I don’t know.” The people won’t kill you for not knowing, and you can research it later, and come back with the answer.

A story infinitely sadder than my baseball story, happened while I was a Bible worker in West Texas. An elderly married couple in my church told me another husband and wife, that they had been friends with for many decades, had both died. They sadly told me they had never tried to share Jesus with them, because they were afraid they would lose their friendship if they saw how “religious” they were!  They were more afraid of losing a friend in this life, than they were of losing them eternally.

Friend, don’t be afraid of sharing Jesus. Like all things, you will meet with failure but also much success.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:14, that the gospel will be preached in all the world before He returns. Every time we invite someone to Jesus, regardless if they accept or reject the invitation, it is still one invitation, one decision closer to Jesus returning.  Let’s remember too, that if someone rejects us it is okay. We are an opportunity, but not their only opportunity. Go ahead and try. That is better than spending the rest of your life wondering what might have been. When Michael Jordan, a famous basketball player tried to play baseball with the Chicago White Sox, the world laughed at him. He did not make it, but his words have always stayed with me. “I am not afraid of failing. I am afraid of not trying.” If that is true in sports, it is infinitely more true in evangelism! Don’t let the past haunt you. Go ahead and try!

To study this week’s SS lesson click here. To download the Sabbath School app click here.

Health and Healing, Lesson 3

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay Area.

This week’s SS Lesson is on physical fitness.

The Spirit of Prophecy and Sports

When I was younger I was told Ellen White was against competition. Our school was discouraged from having games with other schools because of this belief. We were told that athletic games were bad. However I just did an extensive word search on the Spirit of Prophecy database and found the word “competition” used twelve times. Nine times it was in reference to the business world and three times it was in reference to leaders in the church.  Never was the word used in reference to sports.

Here are the facts on what the Spirit of Prophecy actually says about sports and competition. The purpose of my research is more than just finding out what Ellen White really says about sports, but more importantly to show how balanced Ellen White was. She was not an extreme legalist. She was balanced and sensible. This leads me to the second purpose of my research, and that is to show how we need to read the Spirit of Prophecy for ourselves and interpret it for ourselves. The Spirit of Prophecy is not to be crammed down other peoples throats, nor is it my job or any other religious zealots job to interpret her writings for other people. I am a big fan of the Spirit of Prophecy and believe she has a very important message for the church. The church needs to heed her message! However I am becoming more and more convinced that the Spirit of Prophecy needs to be read individually and applied individually.

The Spirit of prophecy is loaded with all kinds of counsel and different people are prepared for different topics of counsel at different times. If the individual is faithful to read the Spirit of Prophecy the Holy Spirit will lead that individual to the topics that the individual needs to see and will shield him from certain truths until the appropriate time for such truths to be revealed. What I read about eggs and cheese, the Holy Spirit may not want my friend to see yet. So I read it to myself and apply it to myself. I am becoming more and more convinced this is how the Spirit of Prophecy should be used. Some truths are obviously general and should be shared with the general public, but common sense should tell us when we should share or just apply it to ourselves.

One quick thought before I get back on track talking about sports. We should never take Ellen White out of context. Here is the problem. ALL COMPLILATION BOOKS LITERALLY TAKE HER OUT OF CONTEXT! Compilation books are topical books that Ellen White never wrote nor put together. People have taken paragraphs out of their original context and put them together in such compilation books such as Counsels on Diet and Foods, Child Guidance, Adventist Home etc. Now there was no mischief intended when these compilation books were put together, but whenever you take a paragraph out of its original context and put it with other paragraphs which was not its original context then you have just LITERALLY TAKEN THINGS OUT OF CONTEXT. When you read the compilation books you miss the balance and the context that inspired Ellen White.

Okay, now back to the original topic of The Spirit of Prophecy and sports. Now of course I will be giving the references for what I find so you may read them in their original context, which in defense of the compilation books, that is what they do also.

This paragraph is from a biography about Ellen White, written by her granddaughter, Grace White Jacques. The book is entitled “My Special Grandmother,” and here is what she wrote on page 2: “It is my belief that we had the most ideal upbringing. The program was one of study, work, and play. In the spring and summer grandmother let all the neighboring children play baseball in her pasture, for the schoolyard was not big enough. She was against game playing that took time from our studies, worship, and chores. But when our work was done, or just before the afternoon chores, we played. She was in favor of a well-rounded program and did not advocate all work and no play.”

How fortunate that these neighbor kids got to meet the real Ellen White and not the one that has at times been preached to young kids that Ellen White taught that Christianity was all work and no play and no fun. Also her practice of letting kids play baseball on her property goes right along with what she actually taught. In Counsels to the Church, page 161 she writes: “I do not condemn the simple exercise of playing ball; but this, even in its simplicity, may be overdone.” Here is the balance that I believe is inspired. Ellen White was not an extremist, she was balanced.

While the Spirit of Prophecy warns against games taking us away from spiritual matters, the same is also said for work or even church activities or anything else that makes us unbalanced Christians. More times than not, it is not the game itself, but us letting it become a god. Money is not evil in and of itself but the love of it is the root of evil if we let it control us. The same is true for sports or anything else.  Read this paragraph where Ellen White encourages teachers and parents to join their kids in their sports! “They often hold themselves too much reserved, and exercise their authority in a cold, unsympathizing manner which cannot win the hearts of their children and pupils. If they would gather the children close to them, and show that they love them, and would manifest an interest in all their efforts and even in their sports, sometimes even being a child among children, they would make the children very happy and would gain their love and win their confidence. And the children would sooner respect and love the authority of their parents and teachers.” {Counsels to the Church p. 193} Blessed is the parent or teacher who has read this and implicated it in their dealings with their children, and blessed are the children!

In 1900 Avondale College was to set aside a special day to celebrate their anniversary. You can read about it here. This was to be a day of thanksgiving and praise, but instead the school celebrated with games. Ellen White noted that many played these games rudely and grotesquely. She said that the enemy was there. So, many have decided that Satan is involved in all sports. Ellen White never said that.  She said it was the way the games were played and the fact that this was to be a day for thanksgiving and praise to God. So it was not so much the game themselves as much as the spirit and attitude of those who played them.  Ellen White not only talked about evil spirits in our games but also in our church board and committee meetings. Obviously in neither cases are the games or meetings to be done away with but rather the evil spirit is to be done away with. Our games and our religious meetings must all be conducted in the right way and right times in order to obtain God’s approval.  Now obviously if you find it hard to act like a Christian while playing a game of cricket then you must just abstain from cricket. Likewise though, if you find it hard to act like a Christian in church board meetings when sensitive issues are being discussed then you should also abstain from church board meetings.

It is my personal conclusion after studying the Spirit of Prophecy that sports are not evil in and of themselves. I believe we need to be careful not to let our games distract us from spiritual matters. I don’t believe we should be scheduling sporting events for our kids during prayer meeting. I don’t believe we should be scheduling them right after sundown Sabbath, but should carefully guard the edges of the Sabbath. I believe sportsmanship and teamwork should be stressed more than winning. I believe we need to be careful not to let the spirit enter our games that entered the games in question at Avondale. At the same time we need to be careful that same spirit does not enter our church board meetings either.

Any way, I am not saying I am right or wrong. I will let the Holy Spirit tell you if I am right or wrong. I am just sharing my personal conclusions which I believe are based upon inspired writings as well as my opinion.

We should enjoy good things in moderation while abstaining from that which is evil. I believe this is the attitude of the Spirit of Prophecy. The Spirit of Prophecy is not extreme, it is balanced and reasonable. Some people who think they are Ellen White’s biggest fans are actually her worse enemies if they take her writings to extremes which she never intended and beat them over the heads of people that have not yet been convicted by the Holy Spirit on such matters. I believe we need to study the writings of Ellen White for ourselves and apply them to ourselves. We don’t need to read her for other people nor apply them to other people. We also need to read her in context and avoid compilation books which by nature and design are going to be extreme and out of context.

Before I close let me just attach this thought to my blog. Many people want to discredit Ellen white’s letters as not being inspired. Some people say her books are inspired but not any of her letters. Keep in mind though, John, Paul, Peter, James and Jude all wrote letters which ended up in the Scriptures as inspired. So likewise, just because Ellen White wrote it in a letter instead of a book does not necessarily mean what she wrote in the letter is not inspired.

Happy Father’s Day!

Baseball 004

 The fearless Franklin Hotrods baseball team of 1978. My Dad is the coach on the far right and I am the second kid from the right on back row.

My Dad and I go way back to when I was first born. I don’t really have any memories before that time. My parents have always been there. I remember my parents taking me to the Tulsa Oilers (Cardinals Triple A team) baseball games back in the late 60’s early 70’s. As a matter of fact these games may have been the first sign that my mind does not work quite like everyone else’s. First, when I was around four or five I thought there were three teams. I thought the outfielders were a team, the infielders were a team, and the catcher, pitcher and batter were a team. I also was very fascinated by the fact that the umpire would throw out a new baseball when one got knocked over a fence or lost. I remember sitting there trying to wrap my little brain around the fact that it was still the same game but a different baseball.  After all we played a hundred games at home with the same ball.

 

When I was twelve I decided I wanted to play baseball. I wanted to knock the ball out of the park like Reggie Jackson, or throw a no hitter like Nolan Ryan. Problem is everyone else decided they wanted to play baseball when they were six, not twelve. My Dad called around and got me a spot on the team of the nearby public school, Franklin Elementary. I was so proud to be on a real team, the Franklin Hotrods! After a meeting of the parents, my mom and dad brought me home my uniform. I was so proud but the number I was assigned did turn out to be prophetic. My number? 00.

 

Not only did I become a member of the Franklin Hotrods but my Dad became a coach. Let me tell you, My Dad is the only one of us who did the team any good. He was a good coach but I played terrible. I struck out all the time, hit into a fielder’s choice once, laid down one good sacrifice bunt, and got only one base hit in my entire little league career. Granted everyone else had been playing for five or six years already. After our last game of the year, a play off loss, that was the end of my baseball career and dreams.

 

Funny I still have so many little league memories. My parents going to every game and cheering for me, and never letting me know how embarrassing it was for me to strike out all the time. My Dad and the other coach would often take us to Tastee Freeze after a practice or game. A time or two we all went out for pizza. At the end of the year we celebrated by taking the whole team to Six Flags over Texas. My parents helped organize the trip which was a huge success.

 

A few nights ago on my way home from a Bible study I drove by a little league park with a game going on. I noticed something, the stands were empty. I know many parents have to work extra these days to provide for their families, but it made me sad that these kids were playing with no one cheering in the stands for them. I am so glad my father and mother have always been there for me. Now when I look back at my little league days what I remember most is not all the strike outs, but my parents always cheering for me, not just in baseball but in everything. When I think about my baseball career or just life in general, I realize, its not whether you win or lose that counts, but who you have cheering for you in the stands!

I love you dad! You too mom! Thanks for always being there for me.

By the way, I have since grown up and given up my silly dreams about being a baseball star. I am going to be a golf star now! And once again, Dad is with me on this.Golf and Picnic 002