Monthly Archives: June 2013

Cross Training

cross-trainingOpen and Shut Case

“Ears that hear and eyes that see—the LORD has made them both.”(Proverbs 20:12)

Eyes and ears. We all have them. They range in color and shape and ability. My eyes? Blue, nearsighted, with a touch of astigmatism. Ears? They still don’t drain well even as an adult. All are handcrafted by our loving Father.

However, seeing and hearing don’t stop there. There is a dimension to life with spiritual eyes and ears. Look at the following verses:

“He who has ears, let him hear.”(Matthew 11:15)

“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” (Luke 24:31)

Spiritual eyes see God’s fingerprints situations others would call coincidence. Spiritual eyes discern truth from lies. Spiritual ears hear God’s still small voice when others hear only the TV.

In Lois Lowry’s novel, The Giver, Jonas begins to see color in a world that is only gray. He catches flashes of it here and there and the others seem surprised when he stops and asks about it. They see nothing. He sees–red.

Is it like that for you? Have you caught glimpses of God at work? Has your ear picked up a sound when others hear only white noise?

Stop and look. Stop and listen. Spiritual eyes and spiritual ears. The LORD has made them both.

Questions:

Describe your eyes and ears. What sounds do you like? What do you like to see?

You are born with eyes and ears. Is the same true spiritually?

How do you get spiritual eyes and ears?

What things have you seen with your spiritual eyes?

What things have you heard with your spiritual ears?

 

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Cross Training

cross-trainingDon’t Jump

“The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”(Proverbs 18:17)

In Norton Juster’s novel, The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo, Humbug, and Tock find themselves on the Island of Conclusions:

“Now will you tell me where we are?” asked Tock as he looked around the desolate island.

“To be sure,” said Canby; “you’re on the Island of Conclusions. Make yourself at home. You’re apt to be here for some time.”

“But how did we get here?”asked Milo, who was still a bit puzzled by being there at all.

“You jumped, of course,” explained Canby. “That’s the way most everyone gets here. It’s really quite simple: every time you decide something without having a good reason, you jump to Conclusions whether you like it or not. It’s such an easy trip to make that I’ve been here hundreds of times.”

“But this is such an unpleasant-looking place,” Milo remarked.

“Yes, that’s true,” admitted Canby; “it does look much better from a distance.”

Jumping to conclusions comes quite naturally. Hear some juicy gossip—jump. See something suspicious—jump. Your things not where you thought you left them—jump.

The verse above encourages us to stay put and gather more information before we take a flying leap. Think of Mary and Joseph and a certain unexpected and early (as in before the wedding) pregnancy. No one likes to be judged before all the facts have been presented, so give others the benefit of the doubt. As Tock, Milo, and Humbug will tell you, getting back from the Island of Conclusions requires a long swim.

Questions:

Describe our ability to reason. How does it work?

Does this ability come from God? Why?(Exodus 4:10-12)

Do you think we have a tendency to jump? Why?

How do we reconcile this ability to reason with a tendency to jump to conclusions?

When have you jumped and regretted it? Has anyone jumped to a conclusion regarding you?

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Cross Training

cross-trainingIs Anyone Home?

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart . . .” (Proverbs 3:5a)

Last week, we talked about not leaning on your own understanding. What happens when you lean on God and He appears to fail you? Let’s say you are not leaning on you, but nothing makes sense and God is no where to be found. What then?

We go into Job mode. Job had it all. Family, all the camels he could want. You name it. Scripture tells us he was the greatest man among all the peoples of the East.

And he loved God. Lots.

One day, Satan comes to God and starts talking trash about Job. He challenges God to put Job’s loyalty to the test. God gives His permission for the testing—with limits. Satan must spare Job’s life.

Zap!

Within days, Job’s family, fortune, and health are gone. Disappeared. Penniless. Ten children to bury. So sick he can barely stand. His wife urges him to curse God and die. Job’s response? “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”

Yet, Job struggles. “Why?” echoes through the empty house. Has Job sinned? Not that he can remember. He longs to meet God and plead his case.

And God shows up. Close and personal. And He’s not obligated to answer questions. Instead, He’s asking them, one after another–for four chapters:

“Where were you when  I laid the earth’s foundation?”(Job 38:4a)

“Does the eagle soar at your command and build his nest on high?”(Job 39:27)

“Do you have an arm like God’s and can your voice thunder like his?”(Job 40:9)

“Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope?”(Job 41:1)

The bottom line?

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart . . .” (Proverbs 3:5)

Know He’s in charge and He’s got it handled. Lean, but not on your understanding of the situation. You’ll never get it completely, so simply trust. And obey.

The good news?

He is trustworthy and we don’t have to understand everything to walk through it. Some answers will have to wait until heaven.

Until then, trust Him. With soccer, siblings, school, and spouses. With everything. With all your heart.

Questions:

Have you ever been in Job’s sandals? Has something happened that you didn’t understand?

What was your first response?

How do you keep going when God seems silent?

Look at Job 38-41. What is your response to God’s questions?

Do those questions bring you comfort like they did for Job?

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Cross Training

cross-trainingLean and Mean

“ . . .lean not on your own understanding;” (Proverbs 3:5b)

Done much leaning lately?

Webster’s New World Dictionary, 4th Edition, tells us that to lean means to bend the body so as to rest part of one’s weight on something; to rely (on or upon); or to tend (toward or to something).

Why lean?

To take a load off. Physically, if you just sprained your ankle or have cranky legs and knees like Cynthia Rylant’s character, Mr. Putter. Emotionally, when you need advice for a challenging situation, or simply for comfort, like snuggling up to watch TV.

When you lean on something, you want to make sure it will hold you up.

Ever been let down? By a weak chair? By a friend?

Solomon reminds us what not to lean upon: our own understanding. Why? Several reasons:

  • Our understanding is incomplete. We can’t see the whole picture the way God does. Paul says in I Corinthians 1:25: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
  • Our understanding is tainted by sin. It tends or leans towards evil. Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”(Jeremiah 17:9) Leaning on our own understanding is like the toddler playing hide and seek who covers his own eyes and thinks you can’t see him.

If we lean against something to take a load off, leaning on ourselves adds to the burden. It requires us to be right and to be in control and, often, that’s not the case. When you see it in print–lean on ourselves–it just doesn’t make sense.

Questions:

On what things do you lean?

To rest against? To rely upon? To tend towards? Why do you lean?

Examine your responses. Can these things take the weight you are putting on them?

When have you leaned on your own understanding rather than on God’s?

How did that work?

Why do we have a tendency to lean on ourselves?

Is it hard to accept God’s word regarding our heart and our level of wisdom?

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