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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
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Epic Proportions
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Softball
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Training Pea Plants

“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.

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.

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