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Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Ephesians 6:5-8 (ESV)

 

...were kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, with arms locked together, as the color guard presented the flag of the United States of America, center court, before one of the first, if not the first, exhibition basketball game played last year by the University of Arkansas girls’ basketball team versus Oral Roberts University.

It made me sick...I had driven with my wife, Sherri, all the way from Wentzville, roughly six hours, spent hard earned money for gas, food and tickets, to watch and cheer for the girls basketball team of my beloved Razorbacks, because during the season the games just are not possible for me to attend; they usually play on Wednesdays or Sundays.  And it had been something we had enjoyed doing with our family when the kids were all at home.  The tickets were less expensive and out of our five children we did have four girls.

It made my stomach turn and I turned to Sherri and said, “Let’s go...I’m not staying to cheer for someone who has disrespected the flag...Sherri was right on the same page, and we left our seats, center court, probably twenty rows up, and left the arena and headed out.

I know that not everything in our country is perfect; that we have many obstacles to address and overcome, but I have always had a place in my heart for our country, where any person who works hard, and has perseverance and passion can reach the dreams they have for their life.  We have seen many evidences of that occurring in our nation, we have had people of different backgrounds and experiences achieve their goals, whether it be the White House, the entertainment world, the sports world, the business world, the list could go on and on.  It has been demonstrated that the principles which are represented by the flag have indeed made it possible for many from humble beginnings to work hard and achieve their dreams. And at the same time to change the wrongs committed within our society whenever we have strayed from the ideals and principles set forth in the Scripture regarding our behavior and our attitudes.

While there are many who must work harder and have more drive than others to reach their goals, it can be done...we have seen it.  In what other part of the world can so many people play a sport and make millions of dollars which they are free to spend as they please, for the betterment of society or on themselves?  As a person who worked several jobs while attending Bible college, I can relate to hard work and difficult circumstances.  But I’ve been fortunate enough and free enough to follow the leading of the Lord in my life because I have been blessed enough to live in the United States of America.

I believe we should strive for the principles that are represented by the flag of the United States of America, “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  And I am grateful to live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

For I realize that many who have gone before me have given their lives that I might have the freedom and blessings I enjoy.  Yes, that includes the freedom to protest.  Some people who live in our country do not hold the same view that I have regarding our nation.  They are able to voice protest, and should, when they believe that something is wrong, but even that protest must be done in an appropriate manner.

For while it is true that we have freedom of speech in our nation...we do not have freedom of speech everywhere...there are some places where it’s just not appropriate to speak freely.

For me...disrespecting the flag...anytime, anywhere, by protest, whether intended or not...is not appropriate. Others may feel differently...they may do so.  Many stayed at the Razorback basketball game and watched the contest...we did not...we wrote to the University and shared our thoughts...and before long there were no “kneeling” players from the University basketball teams on the basketball courts.  They chose other ways to voice their protest and to do something tangible that would result in change that they believed was necessary.  I say, good job!  Change the world and make it a better place...you live in a country... where you can do that...and thank you for not disrespecting the flag of the very nation that protects and encourages you to live in freedom and pursue making those changes.

What is happening in the NFL is a work place issue...not a freedom of speech issue.  All across this nation employers may restrict what an employee says...whether it be ESPN, who recently suspended one of their employees for asking their followers on twitter to boycott the advertisers of the Dallas Cowboys because the owner said if any of his players knelt during the national anthem they would not play... or if it is your workplace...where some things are appropriate to say...while others or not.

I can’t really imagine any owner of a Burger King allowing his employee, when I come in for a burger...to give me a ten minute protest of how terrible it is to work at Burger King before I get my burger. As a consumer I wouldn’t return...I’d go to some other burger joint.  I can’t imagine you could keep your job...it’s just not appropriate... but protesting on your own time...having the freedom to say whatever you want in an appropriate manner...that works...though if your boss hears you...you may have to pay the consequences.

I left the Razorback game...I went to watch some basketball...many are leaving the NFL...it has fallen from the most popular sport in America to below the NBA.  The employees of the NFL, the players...they do play for an employer... the owners...they are undermining the profitability of their own business...and I would imagine it’s only a matter of time where the employers and the league will institute a rule that will forbid a player to kneel during the national anthem and disrespect the flag which represents our country...because it’s hurting their “bottom line.”  I could be wrong...but if they continue on as they are...they will continue to lose revenue.

If you are a Christian on an NFL football team...and your owner says it’s Okay for you to protest...you may protest...but you will have to recognize that many will protest your protest and not buy tickets or merchandise or watch your product...there are many other activities to involve oneself in these day.  Myself, I will not watch a game where the flag and our nation are disrespected...it will actually be a good time for me to grab a “nap”.

If you are a Christian on an NFL football team and your employer passes a rule that says you may not kneel, you must submit to their authority “as to the Lord.”  You “obey” unless it violates your conscience or a biblical principle...like being asked to do something criminal, immoral, idolatrous, or blasphemous. Then you must find another job and another employer.  But while employed by them you must not rebel...but obey. The word for “obey” in Ephesians 6:5 means to do it even when you don’t feel like it...it indicates uninterrupted obedience.

I will continue to work on making our nation better, by sharing Christ with people, so that He may bring us together. He is our only hope, and only He can change the way we act and the way we live.  I will continue to seek to correct those things in our nation that are wrong...in the most effective and appropriate manner.  I will recognize that our nation has many “issues” that need to be addressed.

 I will love my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ first, understanding that it is possible that there would come a time where I must choose Him over the nation.   But right now, just as I love my family, although not everything is what I would like it to be, I will respect our flag and our nation and thank God for the blessings I have received for being able to live here and raise my family, and I will continue to respect the underlying principles that our nation was founded upon and honor the men and women who have given their lives to provide the freedoms I enjoy.

I will stand when the national anthem is played; I will place my hand over my heart, and if things happen as usual, I will shed a tear when I think of all those that have given their lives, for all of us.  May God Bless America.

Posted by Ralph Sawyer with 1 Comments
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Fall is in the air and football is in full force.  For some of us our favorite college team brings nothing but frustration and for others of us it’s a time of great joy.  The beauty of Saturday competition on the football field as young men leave it all on the field to bring the team and fan base the win is incredible.  For those of you that are avid football fans, games can keep you on the edge of your seat…..or out of your seat.   You’ll find yourself yelling, tweeting, and almost experiencing a heart attack.  That’s just the emotions of those of us that are cheering for the winning team. 

As a huge University of Kentucky fan, I love that Kentucky finally has a decent football team….although if I’m honest, they made Mizzou’s terrible team look like a pro team this past Saturday.  One of the things that frustrates me the most about this team is their “play not to lose” attitude.   If you’re not familiar with this strategy, it sounds like a good idea.  Nobody wants to lose, so why wouldn’t you “play not to lose”?  Here’s where you misunderstand the frustrating nature of this strategy and also where I want to connect it to how we live the Christian life.

In football, the “play not to lose” strategy looks like this…..we’ll get the lead in the first half of the game, then we’ll get conservative, run the ball, avoid turnovers and costly mistakes, and let our defense keep us ahead.  While I can appreciate confidence in a defense, the game goes 2 halves and the other team won’t stop trying to score just because you’re ahead.  For me personally this has resulted in 3 weekends in a row where Kentucky got an early lead and then I watched a second half that could nearly kill me as they “played not to lose”.  3 out of 3 of those games came down to a last second play that could have cost them the game.

So what does the “play not to lose” mentality have to do with our Christian life?  We have the early lead.  If we want to get technical, Jesus actually already won the game through His death, burial and resurrection.  Back to the game.  We have Christ in our lives, we’re attending worship, reading our Bible, we’re in a Sunday School group etc.  We’re running the plays in the game of life.  Some of them are even really good plays.  It’s the second half now, we just have to maintain the lead. 

What’s the point of the game of football?  They’re trying to score more points than the opposing team.  The offense is trying to put points on the board and the defense is trying to keep points off the board.  So in our Christian life, since we already have the lead….we start playing defense.  We don’t need to score points because Jesus has scored enough.  We stop working heard on offense to score points.  We’re just maintaining, taking up time, keeping the ball out of the other teams hands.  What’s that look like in the Christian’s life?  We stop focusing on the mission God has given us….to reach people for Christ and make disciples, who will make disciples.  We fall back on defense, we get comfortable with our church, our Sunday School group, our personal walk with Christ.  We keep running plays, we keep engaging in ministry, maybe we even lead a ministry, but it’s not wholly focused on scoring points; reaching people for Christ. 

As the game progresses, we fall in love with our lead…..I mean our church and our small group…. and we can get so comfortable with the lead that we have that we stop scoring points all together.  We stop sharing our faith, we stop praying for lost people, we stop challenging others to do those things.  Why?  Because we’re “playing not to lose”.  We got the lead, it feels good, let’s protect what we got and get to the end of the game.  It’s a scary thing to think our church or other churches could grow to the point where we felt comfortable enough to employ the strategy of “playing not to lose”.

As I’ve watched Kentucky in its last few games, I’ve experienced all of the stress and emotion that comes with watching a team “play not to lose”.  They ran plays on offense, but just running the ball over and over, not scoring points…creating a very frustrating experience for me.  I can’t help but wonder if God looks at us as individuals…as groups….as churches and experiences some of the same frustration watching us “play not to lose”?

God wants us to put points on the board; there is never a point where he wants us to start coasting.  We have more lost people around us young and old than ever here in America.  Let’s get out there and score some points.  Plot and Plan…..Pray…..with your family and with your Sunday School groups.  Then go out and score points.  Let’s play to win, every play…..every day, every conversation, every opportunity God gives us.

Posted by Jeremy Shirley with

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