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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Trouble With the Curve

Minor spoiler alert. In the movie Trouble with the Curve, Clint Eastwood plays an aging (what other sort of role could he play?) professional baseball scout whose eyesight is seriously deteriorating. This affects his ability to read, drive, and do his job of discerning subtle differences between good baseball players and those with the potential to be the best. He is viewed as a relic by friend, foe and even family who believe his usefulness to the sport has passed. Oddly, he is able to compensate for his inability to see well by his ability to hear what no one could or would notice.

Everyone has trouble with the curve in one sense. We cannot perfectly foresee how a set of circumstances will turn in the future. I’ve seen other movies where a character is able to visualize in advance every move a group of opponents will make, enabling the hero to overcome tremendous odds. Such diverse movies as The Matrix, Sherlock Holmes, and the Last Samurai depict main characters having or developing such abilities. In the real world, our ability to anticipate in that way is seriously limited. We do know that if we consistently neglect relationships, finances, or health that they will go bad. We believe that if we consistently do little things well in these arenas that they will go better, but we can’t perfectly anticipate or predict how others will react, no matter what we do.

Our ability to successfully navigate this world and the next depends not on our ability to see but rather on our ability to hear. We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). We can’t see many things we would like to see. Opponents of faith love to point this out, and arrogantly claim they will only believe what they can see or prove.

Success depends on the ability to hear instructions from the One who can see the future, who is himself the beginning and the end, and who can see the end from the beginning. Our role is to learn to hear what God says, to trust it, and to act on it. This ability to hear is even more challenged because winning in God’s kingdom often comes about by losing. We learn this not only from Jesus teaching, but from his own experience. The cross seemed like his moment of greatest defeat, but was actually his moment of greatest victory. This truth plays out in the life of Christ followers in both the big things and little incidents of our lives. Sunday’s message at Bethany Place, the fourth in the series Ear Training is called Ironically Overcoming from Revelation 2:18-29. The text delivers both a terrifying warning and a word of hope to those who hear it and heed it.

You can see the scripture and outline of Sunday’s message below.

Ironically Overcoming
Revelation 2:18-29
Ear Training, Part 4

1.     Do little things well

Revelation 2:18–19 (ESV)
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
19 “ ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.

2.     Take full advantage of your grace period

Revelation 2:20–23 (ESV)
20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

3.     Hold your position

Revelation 2:24–29 (ESV)
24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

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