Monday, August 17, 2015

A Question and a Prayer

BC Tennis Team Verse: Philippians 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Question: Who are you turning to?
This is the beginning. A new season starts today.

This is the end. The way we start, the goals we set, the focus we have will be the place that we end up.

This is the beginning, this is the end: God loves you.

I start most every practice by telling you that I love you. I try to remind you that you are brothers, and that you love one another. But it the end, if all we turn to is each other - it won't be enough. It won't be what lasts. In the midst of the season, the stress, the successes and the disappointments and trying to figure out what to do... the center will have to be Jesus.

None of us is strong enough without Jesus. I'm enough of an example of that. I've started this season in a hurry - here, there and everywhere. I've been really focused in on tennis. And I've tried to do my best to reach out to you... but often without Jesus. Without prayer. Without the Spirit's wisdom. And what has happened? Well, I've struggled to bring positive energy to practice, I've been accusatory and unfair to some of you guys, I've been battled frustration under the surface (although I wouldn't be surprised if you guys have noticed :-)

Maybe many of you have found the same thing. As we've talked about preparing, committing, obeying and praying perhaps you've found yourself turning away, frustrated, not trusting and unable to be honest.

I get it... I have found myself there too. But what is the question? And what is the answer?

Question: What/who are you turning to?
Answer: Rejoice in the Lord, always! I will say it again, rejoice!

"In the beginning, God..." is the way the Scriptures begin. The whole world begins with the central figure being the Lord. And in a gentle yet powerful breath, God breathes the world into life. And what kind of life is it? It is soooooo good! It is filled with a lasting joy!

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God... and the Word became flesh and dwelled among us..." is the way the story of Jesus begins in the book of John. In a gentle, crying infant, our powerful God came to be with us. And what kind of news is this? The angel describes it to the shepherds as "good news of great joy!"

In the beginning of our team verse, Philippians 4:4-9, Paul kicks off this passage of his letter with the Greek words chairete en kyrios. This chairete is translated rejoice, but it is also the root word for the ideas of grace and gifts. The word kyrios is the word for God. So this beginning phrase, chairete en kyrios, is a word play reminder... rejoice in God, for God is the giver of grace and other gifts.

It's pretty simple. In the world view of Jesus's followers, the beginning is God. And that God-centered view carries over to every other beginning... be it a new job, new school, new relationship or new tennis season. The beginning is always Jesus Christ.

And why is that a thought of such joy? Because we are so constantly in need of new beginnings. Look, when we begin a new thing, the BEST we can end up with is stress. More likely we will end up fighting fears, shame, anger, distrust, self-doubts, temptations to be dishonest, and more. So after we forget that need God, after we mess it up and find ourselves sitting up in the middle of the night wondering what can we possible do about the lineup and why in the world was I so mean to my players and why am I preaching all the time at practice and accusing everyone and what can I do to make sure that everyone buys in and how can I get through to everybody everything that is so important... after that...

we can take a deep breath...

and turn to Jesus.

And that is reason to rejoice!

Dear God, I am tired of tiring to figure this out on my own. All I have right now is to say that I want this tennis team to begin and end with You. Jesus, I trust You to make that happen in some way. As we begin this tennis season, we know that it will be full of wins and losses, happiness and disappointment, feelings of frustration and anger and times of pure beauty. Soften our hearts and allow to turn to You, in all of it, from this beginning until the end. Amen.

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