Full Time Benefits

Growing up I had a lot of different jobs. I worked in offices, restaurants, gyms, factories and for a while I even sold coupon books door to door. Most of them were part time gigs that did not include benefits. No paid vacation, sick days, 401k or retirement plans. I didn’t receive any of these, nor did I expect them. They were simply jobs that lined my pocket for the time being. Most of them happened during the offseason when I was playing baseball professionally so I would only be there around four months.

I still vividly remember the first part time job I ever had when I received an actual paycheck. I had just turned 16 and it was the Taco Bell near 51st Avenue and Thunderbird Road. Every night I went home smelling like soft tacos. No matter how hard I scrubbed my body I could still smell them. It was like the ground beef was permanently lodged under my fingernails. I worked there for about 5 months and it took me about 5 years to return as a customer.

A few years ago, my wife and I had a great discussion about how sometimes people who work part time jobs expect full time benefits. They want all of the perks, yet they don’t want to put in the work. Then we went a step further and talked about our faith. Isn’t it funny how Christians want the full time benefits of what God has for them, but only give him part of their lives? They show up for a spiritual shower on Sunday and then live worldly the rest of the week. Saying you are a Christian and blinging a cross around your neck are great, but are your words backing up your actions?

“You see that his faith and actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”

James 2:22, NIV

Going on Trial for Jesus

A pastor spoke a message years ago that impacted me and one of his quotes was this- “If you went on trial as a Christian, would you be found guilty?” That resonated with me. Growing up I talked a good game, but my actions didn’t always back up my words. I prayed at night, wore a cross and went to church on Sunday. I was even an altar boy when I was in grade school. However, I would also go out drinking with my friends, cussed like a sailor and focused more on my muscular strength versus my spiritual strength. People identified me as a Christian, but I was not fully committed to God.

I struggled a lot during my minor league playing career. From the time I graduated college in 1995, until the day I decided to hang up my cleats during the summer of 2000, I bounced between multiple teams, fought injuries and questioned my very existence on the earth. I barely made any money and every offseason I found myself living with different relatives or friends. I even questioned why God had not blessed me more during this time. In my mind I was supposed to be a big leaguer who was vocal about my faith. I realize now that I wasn’t qualified or prepared to take on that responsibility.

Then something happened to me in the winter of 1999. My brother Tommy gave me a bible for Christmas and for the first time I read it consistently. I gave God 30 minutes every morning and dove into his word. I spent time with him, and my eyes were opened to his wisdom and the promises he has for us. Seeds were planted during this time and my faith was growing stronger. However, I still was not committed to leaving my old life behind and this would be the anchor that would keep me from sailing with Jesus for the next 5 years.

God will send out his messengers

I moved back to my home state of Michigan in the fall of 2003. About a year later I met a woman while I was working at Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Battle Creek. Her car was in the shop and all we had for her was a bright blue PT Cruiser that she didn’t like. Five days later she returned the car and I asked her how everything went. She said that her family called her Ted all week (the license plate started with those letters), but she felt blessed to have a car. That really impacted me. Her overall experience was not good, but she felt blessed. Huh?????

I jumped in the car and drove it back to get washed. On the radio was a Christian station. All weekend I could not get her comment out of my mind. On Monday I pulled out her contract and at the end of the day I called her home number and asked for her husband. I felt like it I would be painted as a crazy stalker if I asked for her. I told him the story and asked where they went to church. He told me Resurrection Life in Richland, which was 30 minutes away, so that coming Sunday I showed up.

I attended that church for 18 months and I never once saw her or met her family. I loved the church and I wanted to thank them for inviting me. The church had multiple services, but I always found it so weird that I never ran into them. I believe that God literally put her into my life at that specific moment to move me towards the next step which was fully committing to him through baptism.

Fully Committed to Christ

A few months after attending Resurrection Life, God sent another one of his messengers and this time he was very involved in my life. I was working out at a small gym and this is where I met Bill Crawford. Bill was around 55 years old and this gym was his mission field. He approached me one day during a workout and asked who I was. We talked about guy stuff and eventually came around to talking about our faith. As the months went by, I noticed how he took other young men under his wing and shared his faith with them. While the rest of us were there to get in a workout, Bill was harvesting the crops. I talked about how much he impacted me during a pivotal point in my life in a past blog titled “Be the best version of yourself”.

Bill is a no-nonsense, black and white kind of guy. He has gone through a lot in his life so whenever I would be complaining about something, he would set me straight and give me perspective. Bill was the person I needed at that exact moment of my life and God knew this. I talked about I attended Resurrection Life for almost a year until I made the decision to get baptized and when I did, I went to Bill first. I told him that I had been waiting because I wasn’t sure I earned the right to get baptized. This is when the beauty of Bill came out full force.

The first thing he told me is that I was an idiot and he almost left my house without another word. He realized that I was still young in my walk with Christ, so he mustered up the patience to ask me a very important question. “Do you know what repentance is?” I didn’t so essentially, he broke it down like this. “You are walking down the street in one direction and you know you are going the wrong way. Simply make the decision to turn around and don’t look back.” I needed to leave my old life behind and fully focus on Christ. He gave me some keys to doing this, so I changed my language, the things I watched, and the music I listened to.

On August 21, 2005 I stepped into Lake Campbell in Kalamazoo, Michigan with Pastor Lee Cummings and made the outward sign of the inward commitment I made to Christ. I walked out a new man, fully committed to following Christ and the walk continues. There are good days and bad days just like everyone else, but I do know this. I would rather walk through the valley of the shadow of death following Christ then traveling somewhere else on my own.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4, ESV

Here are some points to think about this week:

  • Get on a bible reading plan and stick to it daily to receive God’s wisdom.
  • Turn away from things that cause you to stumble.
  • Exchange what you listen to with Christian music.
  • Be open to the help of others. We can’t do life on our own.
  • Be in tune with your surroundings, because God is calling for you to follow Him.

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