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July 19, 2016

I have been a guest on a couple of different podcasts recently: Tech Reformation where we discussed social media, news, and blogging. Then I was also on These Go to 11 where they asked me questions to American politics but from a Canadian perspective.

The Immaturity of Addiction

“When someone begins to abuse substances repeatedly, they are often exchanging responsibility for pleasure.” This can be seen as an expression of immaturity.

Lemonade Stands Ethics: Serious Questions and Answers

This is just serious enough to make the point. “It’s that time of year when we again consider Christian morality and lemonade stands. Below find answers to common questions.”

The Legacy of One-Point Calvinism and Casual Churchianity

John Piper: “I grew up among a few million ‘one-point Calvinists’ who misunderstood their one point: ‘once saved, always saved.’ In general, it meant, if Johnny asked Jesus into his heart at age six, left the church at sixteen, mocked Jesus for ten years, and died in Vietnam with a bullet hole through his playboy bunny, he was in heaven.”

4 Simple Steps for Doing Bible Word Studies

George Guthrie follows up a previous post with an instructive one on doing word studies.

Stargazer Fish

Stargazers have eyes on the top of their heads. They bury themselves in the bottom of the sea and just wait for something to blunder on by. Check out the video.

If It Makes You Happy

This article at Reformation21 really digs down to the bottom of the “if it makes you happy” way of thinking that’s so pervasive today.

This Day in 1649 367 years ago today, Edward Winslow helped organize the Society for Propagating the Gospel in New England for the purpose of bringing the gospel to American Indians. *

Five Things I Pray I Will Not Do as a Senior Adult in the Church

Thom Rainer is thinking about being a senior (which is coming right up) and considering the kind of senior he does not want to be. “I have five specific prayers. They are for me. They are for my attitude about my church. They are reminders I will need to review constantly.”

Flashback: So You Want To Sin, Do You?

So you want to sin, do you? I get that. I’ve been there. I’ve been there today. And yesterday. And the day before. Can I beg just four or five minutes of your time? Then you can go and sin all you want. But first I want you to read just a few words and take a moment to consider them.

Luther

The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me. —Martin Luther

July 18, 2016

The following sponsored post is taken from Jane Roach’s new book, God’s Mysterious Ways: Embracing God’s Providence in Esther. Sign up to receive a free study from Jane through the first chapter of Esther.

Who is in Charge? What Esther Teaches Us about God’s Providence

Who is in charge?

This is the fundamental question that the Serpent posed to Eve and to every person since Eden. This question is in the forefront of our minds even when we are young. When one of my grandsons was three years old, his mother left him in my care at my home. As she was driving away, he put his hands on his hips, pulled back his shoulders, looked at me, and asked with an authoritative tone, “Well, who’s in charge here?”

After I got over the shock, I got down to his level and looked him in the eye, replying, “You are not.” He literally shook with surprise. We had a lovely conversation with him sitting on my lap as I explained that he was our guest and we were responsible for his care when he was with us. He was satisfied, and we had a wonderful time together.

People ask this question in many different ways. Is there a God? If so, what is he like? How does he relate to the world and to people today? Is there objective truth? Are there objective standards? Does God have a Son? How many ways are there to salvation? Is God a person or a force? What does it mean to be nice to other people? Who are the Jews, and why is their history filled with efforts to eliminate them? What part does God play in evil? Where is our world headed? What can we do to change the direction? Who decides the answers to these questions?

I have encountered people who answer these questions without a frame of reference outside themselves. They sincerely believe mutually exclusive statements at the same time and see no contradiction.

The need to know God as he has revealed himself in the Bible prompted me to teach a women’s Bible study of the book of Esther, emphasizing the providence of God. It was delightful to encounter the class members in the community and hear them talking about God’s providence, a topic previously not part of their conversations.

God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, yet it has many hints of his presence. The compelling narrative presents God as the all-powerful one who sovereignly directs history according to his predetermined plan. Esther provides answers for how the Old and New Testaments are related through the Bible’s big story of redemption. It has a message of hope for God’s people. While the world attempts to change the decrees of God the Creator, they will not succeed. God, not political leaders, will have the final say in what is right and wrong. God providentially watches over his people, and nothing and no one will ultimately prevail against them. In fact, those who attempt to destroy God’s people find themselves fighting against God.

“Who is God, and how does he relate to the world and people today?” are questions answered in the book of Esther. The values of the Persian Empire look very much like those of our own day. Even in the professing church, people are often more concerned with what they have or do or appear to be than with who they are. The spectacular gets our attention rather than the ordinary providence of God at work in our lives. Pop culture and the news celebrate those who assert their independence from God rather than the faithful who trust God day after day, in success and failure, sickness and health, joy and sorrow. When it seems God is nowhere to be seen, he is at work. God is already where we will be tomorrow. He is working out his divine plan for his glory and our eternal good. We need no “plan B”; God’s perfect plan is being accomplished. The book of Esther invites you to take God at his Word in the mysterious fulfillment of all his promises. Its message is needed in the world today.

Esther is a book named for a woman, but it is part of God’s revelation for all—men, women, and children. God reveals his providence that we may understand it and embrace it for our lives. To embrace means to cherish and hold dear. May you see and embrace God’s providence in your personal life, your family, your church, your nation, and the world through taking a step back in time into the historical narrative of Esther. 

Are you ready to begin or dive deeper into the book of Esther? To get you started, P&R is providing a free guide from Jane Roach on the book’s first chapter. Jane will walk you through the passage, showing how God uses the sinful actions of men and women to set the stage for his ultimate plan. Study questions are provided to help you to apply the text in your life.

http://janeroach.pagedemo.co/

Rescuing the Gospel
July 18, 2016

Is the Reformation over? Have the issues that divided Protestants and Catholics been sufficiently resolved that we can now pursue a return to unity? At the very end of his book Rescuing the Gospel, an account of the Protestant Reformation, Erwin Lutzer offers a compelling answer. While he admits that both Protestantism and Catholicism have developed since the sixteenth century and while he points out areas in which Protestants and Catholics are working in a common cause toward common goals, he insists that the Reformation has not yet come to an end. Any unity would come at the expense of the gospel. “On the most critical issue, namely the salvation of the human soul, Luther’s Reformation is far from over … No matter how many changes the Catholic Church makes, it will not—indeed cannot—endorse an evangelical view of salvation.”

Many make the argument that Catholicism has changed, that the church of the twenty-first century is so vastly different from the church of the sixteenth century that the old disagreements and arguments no longer hold. But here Lutzer points to 5 contemporary teachings of the Roman Catholic Church that must continue to divide us.

Mary. “The church still holds to the traditions it has always held about Mary, her perpetual virginity, her immaculate conception (which denies the biblical truth that all have sinned), the assumption of her body and soul into heaven, the queenship of heaven, and—most seriously of all—the ‘infallible’ teaching that she is the mediatrix of all grace, thus sharing with the Lord Jesus Christ in providing salvation for mankind. The catechism says, ‘By her intercession she continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation … Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” It is to her “protection that the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs.”

Transubstantiation. The updated 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church continues to teach transubstantiation, the doctrine that “the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice … the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner.” “Catholics are taught to worship the consecrated wafer … indeed, parishioners are instructed to give these consecrated elements the highest form of worship—the same degree reserved for the Holy Trinity. Historically (and to this present day) the Catholic Church has taught that salvation comes only through the grace given in the sacraments which, they say, unite the participant to Christ.”

IndulgencesIt comes as a surprise to many Protestants that the Catholic Church continues to affirm the use of indulgences. But “when Pope Francis visited Brazil for World Youth Day in 2013, the Vatican offered a plenary (complete) indulgence to those who couldn’t attend the event but followed on Twitter or by other means. The difference between today and days gone by is that indulgences are no longer sold as such; they are obtained by following the prescribed rituals and showing proper devotion to God as requested by the pope.” The very issue that sparked the Reformation remains in effect today.

Superstitions. While Lutzer admits that there is variance between official and unofficial teaching when it comes to superstitions, he also shows that the Church makes no move to ban such superstitions. To the contrary, they are tolerated and celebrated. “In St. Peter’s Basilica, long lines of people stand before a statute of the apostle to touch (or kiss) his toe. I asked our tour guide about this, and she said, ‘We have this tradition that if you touch Peter’s toe and die you go directly to heaven and bypass purgatory’.” Sure, this is unofficial teaching, “but why would Rome—in the very Vatican no less—foster and encourage these kinds of superstitions that mislead millions? Why aren’t the priests, in Rome or the West, condemning these kinds of abuses? What difference does an accord on justification with Protestants make as long as crowds continue to line up in the Vatican to touch the toe of Peter in order to receive special blessings, perhaps even the promise of eternal life?”

Sainthood. While both Protestants and Catholics speak of saints, we use the word very differently. The Catholic view of sainthood in which saints are recognized and canonized by the church, proves that Catholicism teaches a completely different understanding of justification and of glorification. In this way any doctrine of sainthood does not stand on its own but points to much deeper and more serious issues.

Again Lutzer asks the question: Is the Reformation over? Yes, “the complexity of the Reformation of the sixteenth century with all of its conflicts that permanently changed the map of Europe—that Reformation is over. But the doctrines that Luther and Calvin stood against—that aspect of the Reformation is not over.” In light of that, Lutzer insists that evangelicals remain vigilant like Luther, for “in some sense, our task is more difficult than his.” In the same way Paul rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11 for giving the “impression that he agreed with the Judaizers,” we too must diligently rescue the gospel from even appearing off course. In short, conceding to blurred lines for the sake of unity is spiritual compromise. “We must remind the world that the gospel of the New Testament is for the spiritually needy who have nothing to offer God; they come not to give but to receive; they come not just to be helped but to be rescued.Their contribution to salvation is their sin; God’s grace supplies everything else.”

July 18, 2016

 

Encouragement, Confession, and Concern

Garrett Kell was at this weekend’s big event on The Mall and writes out his thoughts on it. “I didn’t see or hear everything during those seven hours, but I saw much of it. And as I watched, I found myself encouraged, convicted, and concerned.”

5 Principles for Studying the Trinity

Gavin Ortlund: “The Trinity has been ‘trending’ lately in the blogosphere. I think that is a good thing insofar as theological debate often leads to greater theological clarity. Rather than wade into the contested areas, I thought it might be helpful to offer a broader, more constructive post for those of us (like myself) who, particularly in light of the controversy, see our need to keep “beefing up” our understanding of the Trinity.”

The Fjords of Norway

Here’s a beautiful timelapse film of Norway. And then here’s a haunting one of Fukushima.

The Calvary Option?

Carl Trueman: “The world around may legitimate whatever sleaze, self-indulgence and self-deception it may choose. It may decide that black is white, that up is down, and that north is south, for all I care. The needs of my congregation—of all congregations—will remain, at the deepest level, the same that they have always been, as will the answers which Christianity provides.”

The L.E.D. Quandary

Here’s an interesting one on L.E.D. lights. “Building bulbs to last turns out to pose a vexing problem: no one seems to have a sound business model for such a product. And, paradoxically, this is the very problem that the short life span of modern incandescents was meant to solve.”

This Day in 1965. 51 years ago today, R.C. Sproul was ordained by the Pittsburg Presbytery in the United Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A.

“Forced Love” Is the Wrong Way to Look at It

Yes, let’s be done with this unfair caricature of Calvinism.

Headphones Everywhere

“Anyone who has recently spent time in a public space—traversing the aisle of an airplane, say, lurching toward your seat adjacent to the toilet, trying to shift your backpack without thwapping a fellow traveller on the forehead—has likely noticed the sudden and extraordinary ubiquity of headphones.” Indeed.

Flashback: 10 Ways To Resist The Devil

It is one of the Bible’s many sweet and powerful promises: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The question is, though, how do we do this? In very practical ways, how do we resist the devil? Here are 10 of them…

Spurgeon

When your will is God’s will, you will have your will.C.H. Spurgeon

July 17, 2016

The Eric Liddell story is well known. We all know the broad outline: He was one of Great Britain’s great hopes at the 1924 Olympics, he refused to race because of his Christian convictions, he switched races and won an event he had barely trained for, he left it all behind to travel to China to serve as a missionary, he died there in a Japanese prison camp. It’s an amazing story, really.

I was recently reading For the Glory, a wonderful new biography of Liddell, and came across a sweet little vignette that happened much, much later. His wife, Florence, was now many years into her widowhood (and, in fact, had now been widowed a second time). Here is what happened:

One evening Florence sat on the couch at her daughter Heather’s home and watched a reel of celluloid she’d never seen before. It was Pathé’s black-and-white film of Liddell’s 400-meters win in Paris. She saw then what anyone can view now on YouTube. The focus on his twenty-two-year-old face. Those long fingers resting on his hips. That number—451—on his shirt front. The crowd massed steeply behind him. That stare down the line and the curve of the Colombes track before the gun releases him on the race of a lifetime. His fleet feet pounding along the cinder. The spray of that cinder as he runs. His head thrown back. The snap of the tape.

“She couldn’t believe what she was seeing,” remembers Heather. Florence leaned forward on the very lip of her seat, oblivious for more than a full minute to absolutely everything except the scene played out in front of her on a twenty-one-inch television. “It was as if she was there with him, sitting in the stand,” adds Heather. As the race began, Florence was lost in the brightness of it. She even yelled: “Come on, honey. You can beat him. You can do it.”

The last frame of that film shows Liddell after his triumph. He is accepting a congratulatory handshake. The image lingers, freezing him in that pose for a while—the splendor of the man he’d once been so apparent. Florence stood up and looked at it as though in that moment she was remembering every one of the yesterdays she had spent beside him. She bowed her head, raised her hands to her face, and began to weep.

She had never stopped loving him and missing him until, at last, in 1984 she went to be with him in heaven.

Liddells

July 16, 2016

 

Why the Planned Parenthood Videos Didn’t Change the Abortion Debate

It was a year ago that the Planned Parenthood videos were released. “The videos garnered a surprising among of media attention, sparked congressional hearings, and launched dozens of investigations into Planned Parenthood (PP). But a year later, not much has changed. And many people are wondering what went wrong.” He speculates on what happened.

The World’s Largest Model Railroad

There are some terrifically eccentric people out there and this is one of them. (His model railroad is huge but kind of low quality, isn’t it?)

Church Aflame

You may enjoy, and may even need, this call to evangelism. “If Christianity is simply about being nice, I’m not interested. What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside-down? I’m ready for a Christianity that ‘ruins’ my life, which captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable.”

A Love Like That

This is a sweet description of the love of Charles and Sarah Hodge. Kevin DeYoung brings the application: “Married couples, if you imagine that your final moments together will be like this, rejoice and again I say rejoice.”

I Tripped and Fell at the Olympics

Jim Ryun: “I tripped and fell at my final Olympics. It was one of the best things to happen to me.”

Eight Mistakes Churches Make on Their Websites

I’m sure I’ve seen all of these at one time or another. Most of them I’ve seen recently…

This Day in 1674. 342 years ago today, Isaac Watts was born in Southampton, England. He would write over 600 hymns. *

The Incredible Complications of Living Atop the U.S.-Canada Border

What happens if your town, or even your house, spans an international border? This article tells about a guy whose backyard is in the US while his front yard is in Canada.

Flashback: 3 Helpful Instructions on Keeping a Journal

It’s not meant to “advocate a tell-all diary, but a prudent, humble, and appropriate record of our experiences and observations of God’s providence.”

Pulpit Aflame

My gratitude goes to Reformation Heritage Books for sponsoring the blog this week with “Pulpit Aflame.”

Watson

Are there not millions of us who would rather go sleeping to hell; than sweating to heaven? —Thomas Watson

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
July 15, 2016

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Reformation Heritage Books which, of course, also sponsored the blog this week. They are offering a prize package that contains several of their new and noteworthy books. There will be 5 winners and each of those winners will receive:

  • Pulpit Aflame edited by Joel Beeke and Dustin Benge. “In this volume, fourteen experienced preachers reaffirm the centrality of preaching in the life of the church as they explore what the Scriptures have to say about the mandate, meaning, motivation, and method of preaching. With wisdom and conviction, the authors remind the church that God works through the faithful preaching of His Word, no less in the twenty-first century than in the first.”
  • Church History 101 by Sinclair Ferguson, Joel Beeke, and Michael Haykin. “Church history is important because it shows us how God’s faithful dealings with His people in the Bible continue in the ongoing life and work of Christ in our world. If you have ever wished for a short book highlighting church history’s most important events that will enlighten your mind and peak your interest, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. Three prolific church historians collaborate their efforts in Church History 101 to present you with a quick read of church history’s high points.”
  • Living in a Godly Marriage by Joel Beeke & James La Belle. “The Puritans believed that godly marriages were foundational for the future life of families, churches, and nations. Therefore, they wrote prolifically on the subject of marriage, seeking to bring biblical reformation to this subject in a comprehensive way. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other previous Reformers had begun this task, but the Puritans took it much further, writing a number of detailed treatises on how to live as godly spouses. Out of the wealth of material available to us from the seventeenth century, Joel R. Beeke and James A. La Belle have gathered together insights from the past and summarized them in a contemporary form in order to encourage modern-day couples to glorify God in marriage.”
  • Pentecostal Outpourings by Robert Davis Smart, Michael Haykin, and Ian Clary. “When Jesus ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Father, He poured out His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This significant historical and redemptive event was not the last time Christ poured out His Spirit in redemptive history. Mindful of these subsequent acts, Pentecostal Outpourings presents historical research on revivals in the Reformed tradition during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”
  • One Man and One Woman by Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley. “What does the Bible teach about sexual relationships between people of the same sex? Does true love require that we accept all forms of sexual expression? No, real love does not rejoice in sin, but rejoices in the truth. In the Bible, God reveals that He created gender, sex, and marriage, and we may not alter them at our will. Through His laws and works in history, God has made it clear that homosexual practices violate His holy purposes for mankind.”

Enter Here

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

The Perfect Game
July 15, 2016

Baseball returns this evening from its annual mid-season classic. As the teams prepare to take the field I find myself thinking about the game I love, the game that has gripped and fascinated me for as long as I can remember. It is, to my mind, the best sport, the perfect game.

As a child I dreamed of mastering baseball and spent hundreds of sunny summer afternoons chasing the perfect fastball, the perfect swing, the perfect one-hopper from left field to the plate. When night came I fell asleep listening to Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth as they called the highs and lows of the Toronto Blue Jays and when sleep took me I dreamed of taking my rightful place on my team—George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Dave Stieb, and me. Eventually childish fantasy gave way to adult reality but even broken dreams did nothing to temper my passion for the game. A son was born and soon I began to introduce him to my game and to my team. The cycle began anew.

What is it about this game? Why is it that every April I feel a new optimism, a new hope, a new excitement for a new season? Why is it that every October I find myself longing for just a few more games, a few more series? Why do I have such love for this game?

I Love the Challenge

Baseball is a game whose official rules extend to 172 pages and in these pages you will find provision for every eventuality from the routine and everyday to the obscure and nearly unthinkable. But for all the complexity, the heart of the game is so very simple—a man with a ball stands 60 feet, 6 inches from a man with a stick. The man with the ball pauses, he stares, he comes set, and for a moment remains perfectly still. Then he moves again in a careful choreography. His hands rise to his chest or his head, his knee comes up to his waist, his foot kicks outward, and as he plunges toward home plate his hand darts forward. Freeze the frame and you will see him clutching the ball, sometimes with his fingers split across two seams, sometimes with his fingers split across four, sometimes with the ball deep in his palm, sometimes with it nearly floating beneath his fingertips. Unfreeze. With a flick of the wrist it is gone and a mere four tenths of a second later it has slammed into the catcher’s mitt with the familiar smack.

Unless, of course, the man with the stick has had his way. Facing the pitcher is a batter and as the pitcher has been preparing to throw the ball, this man has been moving and shifting his own body, preparing to protect the plate. Before the ball is thrown he stands ready, his fingers loose on his bat, his wrists slowly rotating, his eyes fixed intently on the place where the pitcher’s hand will soon be. He shifts his weight back, lifts his front foot, and rotates his hips to the front as his arms begin to swing. If he times and judges it just right, he will hear the sound of summer, the sharp crack of ball on bat.

This, I’m convinced, pitcher against batter, is the greatest one-on-one challenge in professional sports. This little game within the game, played out hundreds of times every night, never gets old, never loses its thrill.

I Love .200, .300, .400

Baseball is a game of numbers, the sport of a thousand statistics. The most basic of them all is the batting average, the age-old measure of a batter’s raw ability to put bat to ball. It is best understood as the number of times the player will deliver a base hit if given 1,000 opportunities. The difference between a .200 batting average and a .300 batting average is merely 1 hit in every 10 at bats—just 100 hits in 1000 attempts. Yet that slim margin represents the difference between a bona fide superstar and a man looking for a new line of work. In almost every case a .200 hitter will be sent back to the minors or, at best, relegated to a part-time role. In almost every case a .300 hitter will be a star and receive a fat contract. As for that .400 hitter, there has not been one of them in over seventy years. How difficult is it for the man with the stick to beat the man with the ball? If he succeeds 2 times in 10 attempts he is a has-been, 3 times he is a star, 4 times he is a legend.

I Love the Fastball

The fastball is the one pitch every pitcher needs to master and to have as part of his repertoire. For all the talk of sliders and curves and sinkers, there is nothing more elemental than a pitcher overpowering a batter with that high heat. He might throw the venerable four-seamer which flies straight and true or opt for the two-seamer which tails off as it reaches the plate. Better yet, he will throw a mix of the two to keep the batter guessing. He will paint the corners, he will lure him and get him to chase, he will move up and down in the zone, he will assert his dominance. Baseball is at its purest when a fireballing pitcher stares down a red-hot slugger.

I Love the Change-Up

The purity and simplicity of the fastball is off-set by the dirtiness and deception of the change-up. The change-up is a pretender, a mimic, a cheat. It wears the guise of a fastball—the same look, the same action, the same motion—but it travels at a very different pace. This makes it a risk. The slow-moving change may as well be batting practice if the batter knows it’s coming. So the wise pitcher first displays his fastball. He throws it once, twice, three times. Now the batter has the measure of it, he is ready for the next one. But right here the pitcher judges the change-up worth the risk and springs his little surprise. Where the fastball zipped, this ball saunters, where the fastball stayed straight and true, this one falters and sinks. The batter is fooled, swinging long before the ball reaches the plate or perhaps finding himself stock still, tied in knots, helplessly watching as it chugs on by. Nothing makes an experienced pro look more like a rank amateur than a change-up perfectly set-up and perfectly executed.

I Love 60 Feet, 6 Inches

The integrity of baseball depends upon 2 crucial measurements, each of which brings parity to an aspect of the game. The first measurement is 60 feet, 6 inches, the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. That perfect distance brings perfect parity between the man with the ball and the man with the stick. Any closer and a fastball would be unhittable—the batter would have too little time to read the pitch, to judge it, to take his swing. Any farther and the pitcher would have too far to throw—the advantage would swing to the batter. But 60 feet, 6 inches is just right, ensuring that only the best pitchers and hitters are able to survive, and only the best of the best are able to thrive.

I Love 90 Feet

If the first great measurement is 60 feet, 6 inches, the second is 90 feet, the distance between the bases. It, too, is perfect because it, too, sets the perfect parity—parity between offence and defence, between runners and fielders. Even the greatest base-stealer must choose his moments carefully lest he be unceremoniously cut down. But even the greatest defense must be vigilant lest they be caught flat-footed and give up an easy base. At 85 feet defences would suffer and at 95 runners would have too far to go. Watch a runner steal second base and see how close he comes to being tagged. Watch a batter leg out an infield single and see that with another 5 feet, or 2 feet for that, he would be an easy out. It is the perfect distance to maintain the challenge just as it ought to be.

I Love 325 Feet

Baseball depends upon precise measurements—60 feet, 6 inches from the pitcher to the plate, 90 feet from base to base—but it finds its character in imprecise ones. Beyond those few, precise measurements there are any number of ways the game is quirky and customized. A field for professional soccer or football is identical to every other, but when it comes to baseball, every field is different, every one has its unique personality. There is the 325-foot short porch in AT&T field’s right corner, the imposing Green Monster rising up in Boston’s left field, the infamous double and home run catwalks jutting over the field in Tampa Bay, the ivy-covered walls in Wrigley Field. Some parks have fast-playing grass and others have slow-playing turf. Every field is different, every field an individual.

I Love the Shift

Actually, I don’t love the shift, but I do love what it represents. It represents strategy, the measures teams take to gain even a small advantage over their rivals. Yet with any benefit there is risk. A team may put on the shift to gain double coverage in one part of the field but to do this they must abandon another section altogether. They pull in the infield to try to make an out at the plate but this increases the risk of a hot hit scorching through. They guard the runner to keep him from the easy steal but this widens the gap between first and second. Or maybe they choose not to guard him at all but this offers him a tempting head-start if he decides to steal. Through the ebb and flow of a game each player will position himself a hundred different ways to account for a hundred different scenarios. Behind every moment of action is a deliberate strategy.

I Love the Game

Perhaps the greatest beauty in baseball is the vast chasm between its apparent simplicity and its actual difficulty. It is and remains the greatest one-on-one showdown in sports. There is nothing quite like it. Free throws, penalty kicks, penalty shots, 55-yard field goals each have their own challenge, their own thrill. But there is nothing as pure and nothing as thrilling as a man with a ball trying to blow it past that man with a stick.

Image credit: Shutterstock