A Christmas Message: “Bending Our Knees”

Posted on Jan 8, 2016 in Faith | 69 comments

IMG_4303Happy New Year, Readers!  Following is a copy of my Christmas 2015 Newsletter… its content to be enjoyed any day, all year long!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end….The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

This past September I had the pleasure of attending the U.S. Open and watching some of the best tennis players in the world.  A lover of sports competition and a tennis player since my youth, beholding a fantastic Grand Slam tennis match is for me a slice of heaven.  The norm, of course, is watching these gifted men and women on television, so to be up close and personal–witnessing how hard and how beautifully they smack the ball–was truly a treat.

But even more than the thrill, God surprised me by using these professional athletes to speak to my heart.  The late Yogi Berra’s statement, “You can observe a lot by just watching,” proved true.  For three days I watched the best of the best.  While my mind absorbed common traits of world-class tennis players, God showed me ways we can live the best in relationship with Him.  Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).  On Christmas Day we celebrate God’s most precious gift to us of Jesus, but I think having life “to the full” means unwrapping and cherishing that gift all year long.  Getting to know “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” each and every day (Ephesians 3:18).  Even if you’re not a tennis fan, I encourage you to read on; our Creator’s “coaching” is for us all, and because His “tips” are founded on love and truth, they always lead to victory.

On my first morning at New York’s National Tennis Center, my top priority was to locate Practice Court One.  My favorite player, Spain’s amazing, ever humble Rafael Nadal would be there (along with, I soon learned, countless other fans who had the same priority).  Watching the nine-time French Open Champion hit practice balls was indeed a fun way to start my Grand Slam adventure, but God knew how much I hoped to see “Rafa”–one of the best in the history of men’s tennis–play an actual match during my time at the tournament.

Until then, I’d happily observe the power and prowess of others:  the bedazzling backhand slice of Switzerland’s 4th-in-the-world Stan Wawrinka; the 139 mph serve of America’s top-ranked John Isner; the deep knee bend of the Czech Republic’s two-time Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova.

Yes, you read that right.

Maybe it’s because I’m five years post-knee surgery and still regrettably aware of my lack of knee bend when I serve, but as I watched over and over how deeply the long-legged Kvitova (pictured above) would bend her knees every time she served the ball, I realized this was the source of her power.

As I continued to watch player after player, serve after serve, I couldn’t help but notice that every player bends their knees–deeply, intentionally and consistently.  While their service motions may appear unique, they all–whether male or female, tall or short, top-seeded or unseeded–clearly consider one thing vital:  bending their knees.

Their knee bend is the source of their power.

God had my attention.  I may only be an “amateur,” but for me, too, power comes from bending my knees–in prayer to Him.

I think of Daniel in the Bible.  When he learned he’d be thrown into a lions’ den, “…he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem.  Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before….asking God for help” (Daniel 6:10-11).  At this time Daniel was at least 80 years old.  Throughout his life–in some seemingly impossible situations–Daniel had believed “there is a God in heaven” with power to save him (Daniel 2:28).  Now soon to be trapped in a den of hungry lions, Daniel knew his part once again was to bend his knees and pray–deeply, intentionally and consistently.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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” (Philippians 4:6-7).

I love that God answers our prayers in ways we would never expect.  Or could accomplish on our own.  The morning after Daniel was supposed to die, the anguished king hurried to the den and called out:  “Daniel, servant of the Living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”  And Daniel answered yes–“My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.”  When Daniel was lifted from the den, “…no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God” (Daniel 6:20, 22-23).

The more I bend my knees–the more I trust God with my anxieties, my fears, my hurts, my desires–the more I see Him answer.  In ways I never would have expected or could have accomplished on my own.  And it’s precisely this that makes me know “there is a God in heaven” Who listens to me and cares and acts on my behalf.  When I see His power in my life, I’m humbled; I know it’s not because of who I am–it’s because of Who He is.  He is love.  He can’t help but respond in love.  “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love” (1 John 4:16).

And “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).

Maybe you already enjoy a wonderful prayer life and have your own stories of divine rescue you could share with me.  But if for you “bending your knees” is somewhat foreign, I encourage you to give it a try and would be honored to introduce you to the One Who will be listening:

He is “Wonderful Counselor”–there for you 24/7.  Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30);

He is “Mighty God,” Who parted the Red Sea, empowered David to defeat Goliath, and raised Lazarus from the dead.  He can do anything!  “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God'” (Mark 10:27);

He is “Everlasting Father,” Whose love for you began before you were born, will never fail or end, and Who always wants the best for you.  Out of His never-ending well of mercy and grace, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41);

And He is “Prince of Peace,” Who rebuked the wind and the waves, calming the storm, and Who has countless times calmed me.  Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

These four Names of God–prophesied for the Christ Child–have proved sufficient for any prayer I’ve ever prayed.  I trust they will for you, too.  “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  Hallelujah!

If you’re wondering if I ever got to see Rafa play a match, the answer is no, and that’s a whole other subject…about loss and disappointment.  But God used Rafa and others to teach me another lesson, about perseverance and hope, which has encouraged me more than several times since, and that I pray would encourage you.  I’ll tell you about it, God willing, in another letter, coming next year.

Until then, may we bend our knees deeply, intentionally and consistently to the greatest gift the world has ever known, God’s present from heaven–truly a bundle of love–to you and me:  “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11-12).

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

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