1
Studying Personally
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Green Thumb to the Rescue
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Out of my head
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“Why do I have to respect people who don’t respect me?”
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A Lesson from the NBA Finals

Studying Personally

 

For the past two weeks, I have been studying Ezra 7:9b-10. It’s a beautiful description of Ezra’s character and commitment to God. It’s also a great challenge to us as believers.

“…the gracious hand of his God was on him, because Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the LORD, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

1. It’s a matter of the head. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to explain a topic that you have never studied. For example, I am a pro at explaning how to make a pb&j. After all, I eat one almost every day for lunch. However, it would be impossible for me to explain how to tile a floor; I’ve never done it. To live the Gospel, we must know the Gospel. We must study it for ourselves. We cannot depend on the teaching of others around us. It’s a personal study.

2. It’s a matter of the heart. Once the Gospel has taken firm root in your head, it cannot stay there. This can be called obedience-it’s not just knowing right from wrong, it’s choosing the right because it’s right and fleeing from wrong because it’s wrong.

3. It’s a matter of the hands. The truth of God’s love for us ought to break our hearts and stir us to action. Knowing that God loved me so much that he sacrificed himself for me creates the passion to share this love with the people I come into contact with.

All three of these aspects of belief play into each other. It starts with personal Bible study. This is when you have the opportunity to sit alone with God and read His word to us. Lord, thank you for giving us your Word. Help us to become more diligent students of it.

Green Thumb to the Rescue

My mother is the person with the green thumb in our family. Most of the time, I manage to keep a plant alive, but I can never save one once it decides it wants to die. However, mom can.

Junior year of college, mom and I went shopping and I decided to buy my second favorite plant to put in a pot outside my dorm room – the bleeding heart plant. Ever since my childhood, I have been fascinated by the intricate flowers that bloom into hearts and which, over time, sprout little flowers that give the appearance of bleeding.

I kept it alive all semester. But the day we moved out, one of my roommates hit it with her suitcase. The base stem cracked in half and plant juice oozed from it. Within a day, the whole plant turned brown. So I took it to Dr. Mom, Plant Rescuer. After spending the summer in ICU on her back patio, the plant sprang back to life. It grew to twice its size and beauty since being with her.

We all have moments, maybe even days and weeks that we feel crushed beyond repair. All it takes is one blow for us to turn brown and quit thriving.

There is a point in the book of Hosea in which God has finished listing the graphic way in which He is going to destroy the wickedness In Israel. At the end, He tells them, “…you have no help but Me” (Hosea 13:9). Other translations phrase it as a question, such as, “At your destruction, Israel, who will help you?” Israel knows that no one but God Himself is mighty enough to prevent the destruction which God is planning.

We have to learn to turn to God in these times of crisis. If we’re crushed because of our own sin, then we must first turn away from it and then turn to God.

The Lord is faithful. Hosea 13:14 reads, “I will ransom them from the power of Sheol, I will redeem them from death. Death, where are you barbs? Sheol, where is your sting?”

God is powerful over the death in our lives. When we seek Him and obey His commands, then He will heal us – not so that we will return to our former life – but so that we may live with greater joy.

Out of my head

After my junior year in college, I spent the summer with a friend and a missionary couple in Singapore. My friend and I were hoping to experience missions in a setting completely different than the one we live in, so, of course, we picked the exact opposite side of the globe.
 
As we lived in Singapore, we had the priviledge of serving God alongside some Australians. We knew that America was quite literally on the other side of the world compared to Singapore. But it wasn’t until our Australians friends pointed out to us that had we continued to travel any further away from the United States, we would actually be returning to it.
 
Isn’t that the way? It’s like the one thing we are running from suddenly becomes the one thing we are running toward. 
 
InYann Martel’s novel, Life of Pi, the main character Piscine is introduced to Jesus and to Christianity. Afterwards, he expresses:
I couldn’t get Him out of my head. Still can’t. I spent three solid days thinking about Him. The more He bothered me, the less I could forget Him. And the more I learned about Him, the less I wanted to leave Him.”
I teach a middle school girl’s Sunday school class. My coteacher and I have told them that it’s okay if they don’t understand everything about Jesus. In fact, isn’t it better that we, mere humans, cannot comprehend a God who loves us so much that He would suffer in order for us to be in a right relationship with Him?
 
That kind of love is hard to shake from your brain. The more I learn, the more I want to learn.

“Why do I have to respect people who don’t respect me?”

Stories possess a power of persuasion that direct answers struggle to convey. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan tells David a story in order to cause David to admit his sin.

This past Sunday, one of the seventh grade girls in our Sunday School class repeatedly argued that she only has to respect the people who give her respect first.

Rather than confront the issue head on, I told her this story.

“Union University held cheer camp last week. Two of my coworkers brought their daughters. One is five and one is four. When cheer camp ended at lunch, these girls would spend the rest of the day in our office. Their parents let them stay in a back office together under one restriction – that the only reason they could leave that room was to go to the bathroom.

But before long, the four-year-old would sneak out of the room and crawl up to the secretaries. She would giggle and laugh and try to talk with them as they were on the phone. Then the five-year old would follow and roll on the floor with the younger girl. Both were promptly sent back by one of the mothers; they were in big trouble. The four-year-old cried because she knew she had been bad. The five-year-old cried, not because she knew she had disobeyed, but because, as she said, it was “unfair.” After all, the other girl had left first; she was merely following.”

So I turned to our seventh grader and asked, “Which of the girls obeyed the rules?”

“Neither.” She replied.

“Should the five-year old have been punished, even though she was just following the four-year-old?” I asked.

“Of course. She was told to stay in the room and she left.”

“How does this apply to our conversation about respect?”

She sighed, “I get it. Okay? I have to be responsible for me.”

Our obedience is not contigent upon other people’s obedience. When God tells us  to obey, He expects us to obey even if everyone around us is doing the opposite.

A Lesson from the NBA Finals

My husband Kevin came home exhausted yesterday. He stayed late at work preparing for a large fundraising event planned for today. It seemed like nothing was falling into place easily.

So I sent him a text this morning:

You need to harness your inner Durant. No matter who fouls you or what is happening in the game you need to stay calm. After all, everyone is watching.

I’ve never watched the NBA Finals before. I’ve barely even watched NBA regular season games. When the announcers said, “Serge Ibaka,” I honestly thought they had said, “Sir Chubaka.” But one thing that I have noticed during these first four Finals games is that Kevin Durant is incredibly even-tempered on the court. In an interview, Durant said that he carries his Bible in his backpack.

It’s refreshing to see a good example of sportsmanship. And it’s encouraging to see Christians acting like people who love Christ.

I don’t have 6+ feet men intentionally fouling me on the basketball court. But I do have times when I feel like I have been acted against unfairly. It’s easy to become defensive and react out of selfishness rather than  love. But that’s what I’m called to do as a Chrisitian – to love my neighbor as myself. I, too, needed a reminder of how to handle myself in tough times.

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