Charles Job Eldridge – October 16, 2015

Eldridgehighresprints-46“What a gift.” This was my repeated thought over the first several hours after our son, Charles Job Eldridge, was born.  The whole time we were in the hospital I had a profound sense of being undeserving of such a delightful and precious grace. What a joy to have a son. How humbling to be a father.

As I did for William, I want to honor Charlie and recount why his mother and I named him the way we did.

As the story goes, I have a great-, great-grandfather named Newton Napoleon Eldridge. Not surprisingly, this name wasn’t super-popular with Newt’s childhood friends, and they changed it for him. For an unknown reason, the nickname chosen for him was “Charlie.” And when Charlie became an old man, he was fondly known as “Papa (pronounced more like “pap-uh”)  Charlie”.

Me, my granddad, and my dad on my wedding day

Me, my granddad, and my dad on my wedding day

Well, eventually Papa Charlie’s son named his son Charles after his dad’s nickname.  This Charles is my grandfather pictured in the middle to the right.

My Granddaddy was very dear to me. In him I saw a man of strength, wisdom, tenderness, and humor. As a young boy we had a world of fun on his western Kentucky farm, driving his truck, fishing for catfish, pulling weeds, herding cattle, growing vegetables and fruit, trapping raccoons,  neutering calves, riding his pony, harvesting honey, visiting the Mammoth Cave, watching basketball games, holding his hand on a long walk,  and singing songs around a campfire. My mind is graciously filled with happy memories with Charles Leroy Eldridge. In the strength of his embrace, the sincerity of his love, and the beauty of his farm, I tasted heaven.

Me, Charlie, and

Me, Charlie, and “E”

After Charles Leroy came my dad, Charles Edward Eldridge. I will probably never know how much my dad has shaped me. His affection through his hugs, kisses, and words of love meant everything to me as a young boy. And I’m still amazed at how much encouragement I can draw from his simple words of affirmation and assurance. Like many little boys, I had these superlative judgments about my father. He is a pediatrician and would often take us with him to the hospital when he “made rounds on Saturday morning. I remember visiting the hospital nursery with him when I was seven or eight years old, and I noticed how he moved so deftly, so intelligently within this massive building, caring for these vulnerable patients. The nurses loved and respected him. His patients listened to and appreciated him. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “my dad is the greatest.”

So for these reasons and more, I am glad to have named my new son Charles.

Now what about Job? The name Job has gotten an interesting and varied response. Several times Meg and I have gotten a “Job? Hmmm… That’s…nice,” kind of response. But, no worries. We were sort of expecting that. Job, after all, is a rare name for our context. And Job, the character in the Bible, has a mixed legacy: “Didn’t he suffer a lot?” “Wasn’t he real angry at God?”


A painting of Job by a Hungarian artist named Gyula Kardos

Since Charlie was conceived, Meg and I have faced varied difficulties and disappointments. One painful trial seemed to follow on the heels of another, trials relating to work, relationships, personal struggles, and unrealized dreams. Despair, sadness, shame, guilt, confusion, anger, contempt, regret, and envy have been achingly common over these months that Meg has carried Charlie.

So we were struck when we stumbled across several sermons on the book of Job starting in the month of August. This series of sermons is titled, “Walking with God When Life Goes Sideways.” And the crux of the sermons, much like the crux of the book of Job, is the mystery of suffering and God’s faithfulness to us in our suffering.  In light of our own pain, Meg and I meditated on God’s profound dealings with Job and Job’s rawness in relating with God. And in doing so we were drawn to name our son after the man from the land of Uz.

Muse on some of these lines from Job’s story:

After losing his wealth and his children, Job utters, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh.” (Job 1:21)

Next Job loses his health, and his wife says to him, “‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’ But Job said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9-10)

After expressing the grief in his heart (especially in chapter 3), and after facing some unhelpful counsel from his friends, Job hangs on to hope in this well known line, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25)

And finally after so many chapters of silence, God speaks to Job, “Then Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.  Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.'” (Job 38:1-4)

And after Yahweh’s humbling words, “Then Job answered Yahweh and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.'” (Job 42:1-3, 6)

“And Yahweh restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And Yahweh  gave Job twice as much as he had before…And Job died, an old man, and full of days.” (Job 42:10, 17)

This is barely a sampling of God’s intimate and powerful dealings with his servant Job. But these words are testimony to God’s wisdom and faithfulness in Job’s suffering, and they are testimony to Job’s enduring faith through unimaginable loss. Meg and I long for our son to relate to God with Job-like vulnerability and trust.

Another wonderful line from Job’s book is chapter 13, verse 15: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” A few years ago, a group called Shane and Shane released this song, which is, in part, a meditation on this verse. May Charlie hope in the Lord as did his namesake.

Why do we love sports? pt. 3 – “Mission”

“What are you going to do after high school?”

Spending quite a bit of time with high schoolers over the last five years, I am used to hearing this question asked of them. And I often ask it to them myself. “What’s next for you?” “What’s your plan?” “What do you want to do?”

Implicit within these questions is the correct assumption that these young people (and all people for that matter) are meant for mission. That is, we’re meant to give our lives to a cause. We were made to labor with our minds and strength for the sake of accomplishment.

Missional activity can take place in mathematics, chemistry, law, medicine, military service, commerce, design, and countless other ways. Humans apply our intellect and our force in order to calculate, formulate, heal, strategize, make deals, create, and any other number of verbs that signify actions toward accomplishing our mission. We were made for such creation-subduing work. Laziness is contrary to our deepest instincts.

And this is another important reason why I think humans love sports so much. Sports provide yet another opportunity for us to satisfy our urge for mission.  Sports teams give us a cause to commit to. Scouting, recruiting, player development, conditioning, practicing, strategizing, and finally the game itself all provide the requisite context for missional fulfillment. Strategies are executed; bodies are trained; minds are sharpened; difficulties are overcome; opponents are outmatched; ground is gained; buckets are made; runs are scored; mission accomplished.

This appetite for mission is precisely the way Scripture speaks about human nature. In the beginning, “Yahweh God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The man and woman’s mission was to “exercise dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:26). So our desire to do something, to join a cause, to carry out a mission is seared into our souls’ memory, and sports gives us the chance to do this.

Also, Jesus himself came on mission. He came to earth for a cause. Consider these texts:

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15)

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

“Jesus said, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.'” (Luke 4:43)

Jesus’ mission was to do the will of his Father (John 6:38), preaching the gospel and giving up his life for the sake of his people. Jesus had the most important mission in history, to redeem God’s fallen creation through his death and resurrection.

And before he ascended, Jesus sent his disciples on mission:

“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 2o:21)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

These texts are often referred to as “the Great Commission”. This is the Mission of missions. Whether we’re a sports coach, housewife, or scientist, taking dominion over our respective spheres of creation, Christians must also be engaged in the Great Commission.

So the next time you work for the advancement of your team’s mission, whether through cheering or playing, remember the Lord who designed us and calls us for missional impact. And recall that our urge to be on mission is most truly fulfilled when done for God’s glory and Christ’s commission to make disciples.

Why do we love sports? pt. 2 – “Communion”

Last week I began recording some of my thoughts on why people love sports. This is the second of what I plan on being a total of three posts.

The Blues Brothers may be an odd introduction on a post about sports, but the message in this song captures the thrust of this post. Everybody needs somebody to love. Humans connect with other humans. We’re relational to the core. Loneliness is not a virtue. And separation ( whether it’s divorce, bitterness, lawsuits, fights, break-ups, parting ways, etc.) are painful realities. So we long for communion, deep,  steady, satisfying, authentic, passionate communion.

And sports, whether as a player or a fan, provides context for this kind of connection with others.


Attaching to an authority figure(s) is crucial for life to thrive. And in sports, athletes have the opportunity to relate through submission to a coach. The team follows his guidance, listens to his direction, and looks up to him as their leader. I’ve heard many players say that they felt closer to their coaches than they did their own parents. And I myself can resonate with a sincere, deep-seated loyalty to my coaches. I loved having their strong, experienced, and wise presence in my life. Coaches can provide a steadiness and a sense of order for their team.  This relationship, this communion between athlete and coach is a huge part of what makes so many love to give themselves to the game.


As one example of the powerful relationship between teammates, think of the intimate ways they often touch each other. Baseball players slap each other on the rear end after a great hit. Football team captains walk to the center of the field for the coin toss holding hands. Rough and tough hockey players hug each other after a victory. If we saw these people touching one another like this outside of the sports arena, we’d think they were lovers. But it’s deemed appropriate on the sport’s field because they do love each other. They are communing together with such profundity that they shamelessly touch one another’s bodies in otherwise inappropriate ways.

When I think back on my time spent with teammates, tears can come to my eyes. Even if just for a short few years, I related with these men in potent ways. We relied on one another. We rebuked one another. We encouraged one another. We fought together. We cried together. We celebrated together.  We saw each other in our weakest moments and in our strongest moments. So we could scarcely help from calling one another “brothers” and “family”. Where else does someone find this type of community?


“The Big Blue Nation”, “The Bama Nation”, “The Auburn Family”: These are just a few of the fan bases that have named themselves in such a way that indicates their communion. But all fan bases are such. Fans share a common language, especially shibboleths like War Eagle, Roll Tide, Gig ’em Aggies, etc. “Who says this kind of stuff? What do they mean?” If you’re in the family, you say it, and you know what it means.

Fans share common colors and logos. We happily emblazon our bodies in outfits that indicate who we belong to. It allows our fellow fans to know, “We’re together. We’re connected through these sacred colors and symbols.”

Fans share common memories and heroes. Fans can spontaneously meet up and immediately tell the legends of their history: Punt Bama PuntBo Over the Top, Miracle in Jordan-Hare, and Kick Six. These tales of greatness give fans a united memory, memories that enforce the meaningfulness of their union together under the banner of their favorite teams.

As the Blues Brothers sang about, and these observations about sports demonstrate, humans were made to experience other humans in relationship. And this is exactly what’s reflected in the biblical narrative. The opening chapters of Genesis speak of man being made in the image of God, and as we come to find out this God himself exists in an eternal relationship with himself (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). As creatures made in the image of this relational God, we reflect God’s image by relating with others. Thus in those same chapters in Genesis it takes very little time for God to conclude, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

But as the story progresses, sin enters the picture and separates the beautiful union that was meant to exist between fellow men. The first couple is at odds with one another (Genesis 3:12), and the first set of brothers ends in bloodshed (Genesis 4:8). And the sad story of separation continues for millennia.  Graciously, God’s promised rescuer, Jesus of Nazareth, appeared in order to deal with the de-unifying effects of sin. The Apostle writes of Jews and gentiles, “In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:13-14). And he laters refers to the church as “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). Having suffered the curse of sin on the cross, and having triumphed through his resurrection, Jesus’ disciples are now a part of a new communion, “the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15).

It’s for this communion that we were all created, communion centered around the authority of Christ, communion that is sealed by the Spirit inside of us. The communion that we experience through sports is a mere sample of this fuller reality in the church. All of our communing in sports, as meaningful and helpful as it can be, is only a shadow of true communion, whereas Christ’s body is the substance.

So the next time you experience community through sports, praise God. Sports are a grace from the Lord, and one of the gracious things about them is relating with other people through them. But also recognize that communion around sports is simply a pointer to the truer communion we were made for, communion in “the household of God” (1 Timothy 3:15).

Why do we love sports? pt. 1 – “Glory”

For several reasons I’ve wanted to capture some of my thoughts on why people love sports so much: (1) I myself love sports, so this is sort of a self-reflection project. (2) I have a lot of opportunities to speak to sports teams about the gospel and following Jesus, so I’d like to base a few of these “talks” on some blog posts. (3) Dawning upon us is another longed for football season, and as excitement for the new season increases, our love for sports is especially on my mind.

So why do we love sports? Why is baseball our “national pastime” (and football our “national passion“)? Why do we so willingly spend our money on sports and give our time to sports? Why do sports affect us so much, whether for joy, anger, or sadness? Why do we care so much about sports?

Well, I don’t pretend that there’s a simple answer to this question. For different people, there are different answers. However, as I’ve considered our love for sports, there a few motivational factors that I’m convinced have a broad influence as to why sports are so appealing for humans. So over the next few weeks I plan to elaborate on my conclusions.  And the first of these compelling elements of sports is Glory.


It had been a long, exhausting game. Exhausting even for the spectators, let alone the players themselves. The dim, late afternoon kickoff had progressed into a dark, late November night. And as the sun went lower, our blood pressure went higher. So much was on the line: pride,  championships, and (most importantly) bragging rights. Thankfully, the game clock was under a minute left. Within 15-20 minutes the panic would all be over, and we could finally get this behind us, whether in joy or gloom. Un-thankfully,  my team was down by two points. All the opposing offense had to do was run out the clock, and our dreams would be dashed. But (wonder of wonders!) they fumbled! Ed Scissum coughed up the ball, Quenton Reese fell on top of it, and Jarrett Holmes (one of my favorite players in Auburn football history) shot a field goal through for the victory! SEC West champs! Iron Bowl champs! Glory!

The scene that followed Jarrett Holmes’ triumphant field goal was, nothing short of, glorious. An ecstatic pandemonium filled Jordan-Hare Stadium, and spine-tingling joy filled the hearts of all 90,000 fans. I still remember embracing my brother, high-fiving my father, and chanting “S-E-C! S-E-C!” with the hords of people pressed all around us. There was a weightiness to this moment. There was a magnitude in the atmosphere. There was a sense of arrival, of ultimacy, of splendor. On that football field, in that sports arena, we tasted glory.

This scene is not unlike many others that happen each season for every sport. And these experiences of glory (or the potential of experiencing them) are one of the main reasons we are so drawn after sports. Human beings are glory-chasers. Whether it’s climbing mountains, racing to the moon, exploring creation, solving problems, building buildings, growing empires, creating art, developing technologies, composing music, crafting cuisine, writing epics, people are after glory. We want to behold breathtaking greatness. We crave an encounter with the transcendent. Another way to say this is, we all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. That “something” I’m calling glory. We want to be a part of something glorious, or we want to be a part of something that will take us to the glorious. And, as my testimony above indicates, sports are a means  for reaching glory. And thus, we love sports.

Now how does all of this relate to Christianity and the gospel of Jesus?

The glory-chasing nature of human beings is exactly in line with what the Bible teaches about mankind. God created us to experience glory, namely, his own glory (Isaiah 43:7; Ephesians 1:3-6). God formed us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, namely, subduing the creation (Genesis 1:28), filling the earth with the knowledge of his glory (Habakkuk 2:14), and completing Jesus’ worldwide, disciple-making mission (Matthew 28:18-20). And God leads history toward an unimaginably satisfying ending, namely, the new heavens and new earth, where the sun and moon will no longer be needed because the glory of God will be its light (Revelation 21:23). This is the glory were made for.

Distinct from all the rest of creation, humans have the capacity to know God and exult in his glory. “You, Yahweh, are my glory” (Psalm 3:3). “So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory” (Psalm 63:3). “Sing the glory of God’s name; give to him glorious praise!” (Psalm 66:2) “Glory in Yahweh’s holy name!” (Psalm 105:3) Our glory-starved condition is only ultimately realized when our pursuit for glory is aimed at the God of the universe. (And the glory we seek through sports is a faint echo of God’s design for us to experience his glory.)

Tragically, the Scriptures teach that our created design hasn’t been realized: “Men have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:23). In other words, the divine means for obtaining glory have been exchanged with creaturely means. All of us in our own way(s), have substituted the Creator’s majesty for man’s. As the Apostle later said, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

And a big part of my own story is the way I used sports (especially football) as my glory substitute. I “fell short” of God’s glory by giving my deepest love to football and glorying therein. I don’t mean to project my own story on to anybody else. Sports can be enjoyed to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).  And amazingly there’s good news for people like me who’ve fallen short in this: God sent Jesus to live the life we should have lived, a life perfectly treasuring God’s glory. Then Jesus died the death we should have died, suffering in the place of glory-thieving sinners like me. And then Jesus rose from the grave, gloriously triumphing over sin and death. And now all who repent of sin and trust in him are enabled by his Spirit to live God glorifying lives in all our activity, including sports (Colossians 3:17).

So the next time you experience the glory of sports, the splendor of victory, and the magnitude of a championship celebration, remember that moments like those are only a distant echo of the glory we were made to experience. Glory-filled moments on the athletic field are mere indicators that our hearts were made for more. Our truest and most satisfying tastes of glory happen as we believe and behold “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4).

Sermon audio: God’s King is King (Psalm 2)

On July 5th I had the privilege to preach for First Baptist Church of Prospect, Kentucky. It was also a privilege to preach on Psalm 2. This psalm has been confusing to me for years, so it was a gift to be able to spend an extended amount of time studying it. Here is the text of the psalm as rendered by the English Standard Version, and the audio of the sermon follows:

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break[b] them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Sermon audio: Two Ways to Live (Psalm 1)

“Everyone wants to be happy, but how can we obtain true happiness?” This was the central question I considered as I preached through Psalm 1. This was only the second time I’d preached on a psalm, and the experience confirmed my love for this treasured book.

*My thanks to Ryan Hoselton for his article “Are You Happy? Pharrell vs. Augustine”.

Jesus’ Genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17)

Here is my latest effort in preaching through the Gospel of Matthew. This sermon is on the opening verses of Matthew (and of the New Testament), Jesus’ genealogy. It was a unique message in that I was able to trace the storyline of the Old Testament, just as the genealogy itself works through the same story. All of it, of course, culminating in the coming of the Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.