Monthly Archives: July 2013

An Inside Job

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“An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.”(Proverbs 18:19)

Walled cities. Barred gates. In ancient times, they provided protection. Yet while walls and bars kept invaders out, they did something else too. They kept people inside. When an army laid siege to a city, famine and sickness flourished. People turned on one another. Death came from the inside.

Read the Proverbs verse above. Offenses and disputes can lead us to put up walls and to bar the gates of our hearts. Verbal arrows and battering rams wound and the pain is real. The temptation is to retreat behind our walls and to avoid hurt altogether.

But it’s a trap. Behind the walls, our spirit starves.

So what are we to do? Is there no protection from hurt? Mean comments on the playground. Trash talking on the field. Put-downs from a brother or sister when Mom’s not looking. Gossip at the soccer field or by the water cooler. Isaiah 41: 10 says:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

God filters all things, even the wrong choices of others. If He allowed it, you can bet He will use it. God wastes nothing, not tears, and certainly not pain. Give it to Him and keep your heart open. Don’t be guilty of an inside job.

Questions:

Can you remember when someone hurt you? How did you feel?

Did you want to fight back or retreat?

If you tend to retreat, what do you do?

What’s the downside to a long-term retreat? (Short ones may be wise and necessary at times.)

What helps you continue to love when others are hurtful?

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What’s Your Point?

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My son’s Navy training includes land nav—land navigation. Because I am such a military wanna-be, I’m brushing up on my compass and map skills. To keep from becoming lost, my handy-dandy wilderness survival guide advises me to choose a stationary focal point and use it to plot my course.

Hmmm. Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 17:24–God thought of that one a long time ago:

“A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.”

God applies the principle to character. God is our wisdom, our strong, immovable Rock, and our stationary focal point. He doesn’t change. Not in bad weather, hard times, whatever. When we keep Him in view, we know where we are. Rain may fall. Bees may hover in the next tree and a skunk may lurk in the next bush.

But we are not lost.

And knowing where you stand(literally) is a good thing.

Questions:

What is it like to be lost? Do we even know it at first? Describe the process.

How do you feel when you know where you’re going?

How do we know where we stand? What tells us?

What does God’s Word tell us?

How do challenges or obstacles affect your attitude when you know where you’re going? When you’re lost?

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Between the Covers

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“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”(Psalm 139:16)

According to Psalm 139, our book was written long before Page 1 became a reality. Paul tells us in Ephesians our book was written before creation itself:

“For he chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”(Ephesians 1:4)

So what does that mean for us as we live between the covers of our book?

It means the Author of life and of our salvation has been planning for us quite a long time.

It means He knows all about today; He wrote the script years ago.

Literally.

He cannot be surprised. Not at this point in your life, not ever.

He knows or knew:

  • Your first grade teacher
  • Your BFF
  • The date and time of your first kiss
  • Your first fender-bender
  • Your GPA and your career choice
  • Your first job and your first house
  • And all that came (or is coming) in between and what will follow.

As the main character in your story, doesn’t a close relationship with the Author make sense? Every day is ordained. Chosen and planned just for you. Walk through each day with Him. You don’t want to miss a thing.

Questions:

How do you feel about Psalm 139:16?

How about Ephesians 1:4? How does the Ephesians verse differ from the verse in Psalms?

Why would God go to so much trouble?

How does this information change your today? Your tomorrow? Or does it?

In a real book, no relationship exists between author and character except in the author’s mind and imagination. How is our relationship with God different?

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Hands-On

cross-trainingParents and kids. Together, we’re pretty handy.

When our children were small, we led them by the hand—to the grocery store, Target, or wherever the to-do list took us.

We held their hand for safety—across streets, parking lots, and through the mall.

As they grew older, a firm hand on the back steered them between people and around obstacles.

A hand on the shoulder, usually coupled with words of advice and warning, came before the first date or the first solo drive.

A hand giving a squeeze sought to give comfort after a big loss on the field and the first broken heart.

Or just to say I love you.

Psalm 139 shows us that God is a hands-on parent too:

“ . . . you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”(Psalm 139:5b-10)

I agree with verse 6: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, . . .”

Questions:

What positive memories do you have of your parents’ or grandparents’ hands?

In what positive ways do you use your hands?

Bette Midler sings a song about God watching us from a distance. Do you think this is true? Why? Compare this song with Psalm 139.

Why do you think God chooses to be hands-on?

Can you think of a time when you sensed God’s hand on you? (Parents, can you testify to a time when God’s hand was on your child? Share this with them.)

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Drop Your Weapons

cross-trainingA scene from the movie, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, depicts Peter, Susan, Lucy, and beaver friends crossing a frozen river in an attempt to reach Aslan. The White Witch’s wolves block the way when a frozen waterfall above the river begins to thaw. A burst of water sends them careening down the now raging river.

One moment, ice—solid and firm. The next, a flood of water.

Solomon gives a similar picture:

“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”(Proverbs 17:14)

What caused the breached dam and ensuing flood?

Someone started a quarrel.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”(James 4:1)

James tells us we have desires that battle within.Unchecked, battles within lead to battles that get out. Quarrels–which may lead to an unexpected flood.

How do we avoid such a disaster?

“ . . .so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”(Proverbs 17:14b)

Dropping the matter means I drop my weapons, those desires battling within me. Desires like:

  • The desire to be right
  • The desire to have the last word (and the first)
  • The desire to defend myself
  • The desire to have my own way

But I’m a fighter and self-defense is justified, right?

Hardly. God is not impressed with my warrior spirit. He prefers I lay down my weapons and leave any unfinished business to Him. My job is to love my enemies, whether the enemy of the moment is a spouse, a sibling, or a stranger.

So drop it and practice some flood prevention.

Questions:

Do you know someone who likes to start quarrels?

If someone starts a quarrel, do you have to accept the invitation to the bickering party?

Give your top three reasons for quarrelling.

What are your weapons when you quarrel? (The desires you battle)

How can you drop your weapons?

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