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Epic Proportions
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Softball
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Training Pea Plants
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“What kind of god is that?”
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Waiting for Roots

Epic Proportions

“Prepare to meet your doom!” When I hear that sentence, I think of epic superhero movies, once the underdog has found his or her inspiration and is deteremined to win. I also think of my days playing video games, knowing that once my brother could make such a statement, it would soon be “game over” for me.

But get this: Amos used the same phrase in warning Israel to turn from her evil ways. Amos 4:12b-13 says,

“Israel, prepare to meet your God! He is here: the One who makes the dawn out of darkness and strides on the heights of the earth. Yahweh, the God of Hosts is His name.”

God is here. Not only does He turn dark into light, nothing into mountains, He care about us. Look again. He reveals His thoughts to us. God is not some unknowable entity. He wants to be known – no, more than that – He wants us to know Him. God is not some arrogant punk with His nose in the air. This is the same God who revealed Himself to us in the form of His son, Jesus the Christ. Jesus came to earth, lived, let Himself be executed, conquered death and rose – for us.

Our God is powerful! Who are we to argue with this God? Who are we to keep sinning against Him?

Softball

Kevin and I play city league softball (our church has a team). At our last game, Kevin was in left field and I was catcher. The first time he took the field, a ball was popped up to him. He caught it! The batter was out. Our team then got two more people out. Our teams switched – they took the field and we went to bat. I hit a hard grounder past third. I touched first base before the ball was thrown there. I was safe.

No one questioned any of these actions. No one hit the ball and ran directly to second base. No one got to three strikes and decided to keep trying to bat. At the end of the game, we had more points than the other team. No one said that we lost.

The rules of softball assure unity on the field. They force us to work as a team. Some teams have all star players, but no team wins with just one person on the field.

I can perfectly field a ground ball hit to third, but what good is it if there is no one at first for me to throw it to? How will we get anyone out?

My team needs the same goal. On the field, it is to get three outs quickly. At bat, it’s to get runners home. Overall…to win.

As Christians in the body of Christ, we must also work together for the same goal: to glorify Christ as we love others. Paul reminds the Philippian church to think “the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal.”

We cannot all be the pitcher, otherwise we will cause our own defeat.

Our softball team only takes the field on Monday evenings. But my role in the body of Christ is active everyday. There are no time-outs, no seventh inning stretches.

Last week our youth group teamed up with several other churches in our city for an in-town mission trip. I could stand to learn a lesson from them: that even though we gather at different locations to worship, we all serve the same Lord.

Training Pea Plants

I’m clingy. Just ask my husband. Tuesday morning I kept hugging him even while he was brushing his teeth.

I also like to cling to objects that I deem valuable. Take my brand new pack of scrapbook paper for example. It’s the prettiest paper I’ve ever owned. I purchased it for the sole purpose of using it, and yet, when it came to scrapbooking a gift for my cousin’s graduation, I didn’t want to use it.

My heart is like those clingy little vines on my pea plant. In a matter of hours, they shoot out dozens of tiny tendrils that wrap around whatever is closest to them.

But last week, I realized they were choking themselves to death. They were grasping onto each other and themselves, which was actually squeezing their vine too tightly and breaking them. One even clung so tightly to my bell pepper plant that it squeezed off a bloom, thus preventing a bell pepper to grow. Not okay. So I set up twine for them to grab and climb up. I had to completely break off the tendrils that were killing it (and my peppers) and tie some to the twine to get it started.

If I’m not careful, my heart will latch onto things around me that aren’t good for me, too. That’s the stuff that’s called sin.

It’s not good enough for me to say that I need to “turn away from sin.” Turning my back on one sin can very well mean that I’m turning to a whole host of other sins. Just like my pea plants will have to learn to cling to the twine, I need to learn to cling to Christ.

But it hurts to let go. Just ask those pea tendrils that I had to snap off. God issues a call to repentance (AKA turning from sin)  in Joel 2:12-13.

“Even now – this is the Lord’s declaration – turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God…”

Repentance is not a little matter. It’s not a quickly admitted “sorry” as though we are feuding preschoolers on the playground. True repentance from sin involves a change.

Stop turning away from sin and focus on turning to God. Once we learn to focus all our efforts on Him, then and then only will we see that God has turned us away from sinful things.

Repentance is a both/and. We both turn to God and away from sin. God does not promise an instant, pain free existence. Did you catch the phrase, “Tear your hearts, not just your clothes?” Our hearts latch to our sin. They don’t want to let go. It’s only in tearing it off the world that we will be able to live for Christ.

“What kind of god is that?”

“This Son is a god who spent most of His time telling stories, talking. This Son is a god who walked, a pedestrian god – and in a hot place, at that – with a stride like any human stride, the sandal reaching just above the rocks along the way; and when He splurged on transportation, it was a regular donkey. This Son is a god who died in three hours, with moans, gasps and laments. What kind of god is that? What is there to inspire in this Son? Love, said Father Martin.” – The Life of Pi

I’ve watched some of my closest friends do a lot of stupid stuff in the name of “love.”  In middle school, one intentionally injured herself simply so that her mom would take care of her. In high school, one refused a  full ride scholarship to her dream college so that she would not move away from her boyfriend. In college, one gave herself to several guys before marriage in order to keep them around longer.

Each of these friends would claim that they acted out of their desire for love. The problem is that they were looking for an unbiblical picture of love. Merriam Webster defines “love” as 1) a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (and skipping #2-3); 4) unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.

When we say that God is love, we do not mean that God merely feels affection for us. I feel affection for my local minor league baseball team. I even cheer them on at our almost-weekly attendance of their games. I am fond of the team. I even have an attachment to them. But nothing more than that.

God has the #4 kind of love for us. As Pi says in his quote, we have a God who died “with moans, gasps and laments.” He asks, “What kind of god is that?” Pi is stuck in his limited perspective. When he hears that God died, he thinks that means God is weak. Rather, it means that God is love. His love is so unselfish that He died in our place.

God’s love is more than mere attachment. It’s devotion; it’s the kind of love that keeps loving even during the most difficult times. It’s the kind of love that loves us even when we don’t love Him back – more strongly – it’s the kind of love that loves us even when we hate Him.

Waiting for Roots

My coworkers have potted vines on their desks. They are easier to keep alive than flowers but harder than fake plants. Last summer, two of the vines had reached the floor. They told me that if I cut them off at the joints, I could stick them in water and they would grow roots. Then, I could plant them in dirt and start my own potted vine.

So I cut off two long vines, put them in a water  bottle, and stuck them on the windowsill of our apartment. A week later, my husband approached the subject with as much tact as he could muster.

“Renae, we’re not keeping those vines in water bottles forever, are we?”

I laughed and replied, “No. Just until they grow roots. Then we’ll plant them in dirt and let them grow.”

I watched them every day for three weeks. And every day for three weeks Kevin asked me, “Any roots yet?” My answer stayed the same, “Not yet.”

I had faith that my vines would grow on their own. For years, they have relied on other parts of the plant to bring its nutrients. It was the growth of another’s work. These leaves were merely the decoration that hung down the desk.

But then on week four, a little white thing looked like it was sprouting. Over night, it had grown a three inch root!

At the beginning of our walk with God, we are like that little vine. We (hopefully) are  discipled and taught how to follow Christ. But it’s not until we put the responsibility of having an individual quiet time on ourselves that we learn how to have a personal relationship with God.

John 16:7 says, “Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you.”

The disciples could no longer rely on the physical steps of Jesus. They had to rely on a spiritual faith, one of listening to and obeying the Counselor, in order to grow in their relationship with God. And so do we.

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