In my mind there is no more special day in sports than opening day in baseball. The smell of freshly cut emerald green grass delights the senses. The base lines are painstakingly and perfectly defined by a grounds crew that is committed to perfection on this day. Red, white, and blue bunting give the ball park a festive world series look. The players today act like little boys. This is the one day that these privileged athletes seem to forget they are millionaires and actually appear grateful that they are paid to play a little boy's and girl's game. Kids skip school and parents do not care because memories are being made for both of them. The hot dogs taste like gourmet food. Tacky souvenirs are treasures to be kept. The atmosphere is magic. It is opening day and every team has renewed hope. Each fan has dreams and they are hopefully or, perhaps hopelessly, optimistic. Last year's disappointments are gone and the hope of a new season dawns for fifty thousand fans in the park and thousands more across the city. The mood is upbeat and the expectations high. This is a new day and a new season. Old mistakes are forgotten. Past errors no longer important. Today is the annual renewal of the incredible marathon that is big league baseball.
Opening day can be a metaphor for our relationship with Jesus. God's Word tells us that every day can be like opening day (Dave's Living Paraphrase). There can be new hope. Yesterday's sins are forgotten when you accept the gift of Jesus on the cross. Every morning that I awaken and see the magic of a sunrise I have a new chance to be renewed and optimistic about the day. I don't have to wait a year to have a chance for renewal. Paul writes that every day has the potential for the spiritual magic of renewal and victory in Christ.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your
bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind he
will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too
much to ask? Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.
As God's messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5so it is with Christ's body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.
God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Don't just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.
Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful. When God's children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.
If people persecute you because you are a Christian, don't curse them; pray that God will bless them. When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other. Don't try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all!
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. (Romans 12, NLT)I am grateful that in my spiritual journey God has given me a chance for "opening day" renewal every day because of His grace. I have had some bad seasons during my career as a follower of Jesus. Some pretty ugly slumps. Because of His grace I am learning that everyday is a gift with the promise of renewal. Today as I absorb the hope of opening day I realize that every day with Jesus can be like this special day in baseball. I can be transformed and new. In fact, I have been transformed. I am a new creation. Past losses (sins) have been redeemed and forgiven. There can be freshness in the journey and real joy and freedom. I can realize that I am a child of God and be grateful that I can call Him Father. I can believe that hope for the future is real. I can understand that I must (by His grace and the power of the Spirit) be a better teammate. I should not expect my team to be perfect. I am pretty sure they will boot some easy chances and strikeout in some key situations. But I will trust God to help me love them and encourage them because we are on the same team known simply as the Body of Christ. The magic of a fresh start happens once a year in baseball. It can happen every day for a follower of Jesus.