Thursday, September 3, 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: What steps are you taking?
We've posed two questions so far in our devotional series.
1. What do you turn to?
2. What habits are you forming?

So, if we think of this in physical terms, we are turning our bodies toward Jesus, trying to get into habits and rhythms that help us turn God's way anytime that we feel our negative emotions, or the things we are trying to leave behind. Now, if we've turned toward Jesus (and toward our brothers), we want to become closer to them. We want to walk toward them.

I suppose that this is as good a point as any to reveal my bias. I hate meaninglessness. It's why I have difficulty watching most blockbuster movies, many TV shows, and pretty much everything on Youtube. I want everything to have a deeper meaning, to have a REAL and LASTING connection.

That means to me, tennis and our team must have a deeper purpose than whacking a moving ball. Whacking the moving ball is fun, it's the thing we gather around to do, but if that's it... well, it's not worth my time. What is worth my time? Relationships. Relationships to God and relationships with you, my brothers. I want you to have an impact on my life beyond the tennis court, and I hope I might have some wisdom that extends beyond the tennis court for you. I want to dive into REAL life, and experience LASTING wisdom, challenges, and change.

And so, I'm not content just saying you are my brothers. I want those relationships to be real. To know about you, the coaches, and the things that are important to you. And I want the same thing of God, to know Jesus better and what is important to God.

The first thing that happens is we making habits of turning to God and paying attention. Habits of turning to our brothers and paying attention. But if we want it to be real, we can't stop at the turning. We have to take a step.

The beautiful thing is that our team verse gives us that way forward. That way to deepen relationships with God and with others.

How do we take that step to deepen relationships?
1. Think about what we've learned, received, and heard from them.
2. Put it into practice! (In other words, DO IT!)

It's in the second part of the team verse, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice."

As we learn about God, as we learn about Jesus and his life, we take the things we've learned and we begin to do them. As we do, it deepens our understanding of who Jesus is. And, we'll find, it makes our lives more the way that God intended them to be. As we take steps toward the way of Jesus, we find that we are being filled up and empowered by the Holy Spirit - with good things, like joy and peace and love.

As we learn things about our brothers, the same rule applies. What do they need? What helps them feel comfortable and loved? How have I learned to care for them? And then taking the step to do it. In the doing, we are showing we value them. Typically, others will reciprocate and show that they value us as well.

So this all seems very easy. See how God wants us to act and live and take the step of putting it into practice. Or learn how our brothers want to be treated, and put it into practice. But... it requires us to change. And that's the difficulty. We have to be committed enough to the relationship, and the importance of that relationship, to change the way we normally would live.

Here's a concrete example from the last week on the tennis team. Byeong was playing at the Western Invitational. The rest of us were sitting down eating our lunches. Byeong started out the match frustrated, feeling like nobody was paying attention to him. Byeong expressed that he would love some cheering, some vocal support. We learned and received something from Byeong.

Now we had a choice. How would we respond? Most of the members of this year's varsity are quiet and a bit timid. We don't like to draw attention to ourselves. To cheer, to pay attention, to yell encouragement across the courts... that would require uncomfortable change. But because we love Byeong, we did it. Ethan began his #2 singles match, cheering for Byeong as he took the court. Simon and Brandon moved down to watch him and yelled for each drop shot.

It affected Byeong. His confidence rose. He gained new energy. We had taken a step toward him, and he felt the support. We had heard from him and put it into practice.

So let me end with a series of questions...
- What have you heard or noticed from God recently?
- How can you put into practice being more like Jesus?
- What do you know that your teammates need from you?
- Can you commit to the change of putting what your teammates need into practice?

Lord God, give us the ability to take steps. Let us not be frozen with fear or doubt, but instead, with confidence, let us love one another. Let us begin to trust Your love, and believe that Your way of life leads not only to the best for us, but the best for those around us. Let us have the power of the Spirit to walk in obedience toward You. Let us have the power of Your love to support our brothers, those who are all around us. Thanks for Your love, that is always being put into practice for us. In Jesus name, amen.

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