Monday, May 1, 2017

HOW TO FAIL SUCCESSFULLY

How many have ever failed at something in your life? I know I have – over and over. We all do.


Abraham Lincoln is an example of failure.
  • His first business venture was a failure
  • He lost the election the first time he became a candidate for the State Legislature
  • In his battle with Douglas for a seat in the Senate, he gained the majority of the popular vote, but lost the election due to the way the vote was apportioned at that time
  • Yet he took it all in good humor with a determination to do right and with charity toward those who opposed him
  • He finally won the presidency

Another famous example is that of Demosthenes, who is known as one of the greatest of the ancient Greek orators.

  • His first speech was greeted with derisive laughter
  • His weak lungs, shrill voice and inability to pronounce the letter “r” made him difficult to understand
  • Some of his friends reproved him for his timidity and cowardice and suggested ways that he might overcome his defects
  • He spoke with pebbles in his mouth
  • He practiced on high mountains and by the oceans
  • He practiced incessantly
  • Eventually he became one of the greatest orators in Greek culture
  • “Never was the Greek language carried to a higher degree of perfection.  Never has been exceeded before or since in power of persuasion, in penetrating reasoning…”

Yet, without his initial failure and the guidance of friends, he might not have been spurred into taking the path of achievement.

Mark, in the Bible,  failed over and over.

Many scholars believe that it is possible that it was Mark who fled from the soldiers who arrested Jesus. (Mark 14:51-52).

Mark was trained by Paul, Peter and others. (Acts 12:25-31)

Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem and decided to take John Mark with them.

It was a season of great harvest on the church and Mark was in the middle of it. (Acts 13:2-5).

When the pressure started to build – Mark quit. (Acts 13:13).

We are not told why John Mark left the group and returned to Jerusalem – but it did cause Paul and Barnabas to get into it later and break up over it. (Acts 15:37-39)

Eventually he repents and begins to serve with Barnabas.  (Praise God for second chances!)

I John 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (NKJ)

It is interesting, even though Paul didn’t want him around – He eventually was willing to forgive and forget his past.

Look at what Paul says at the end of his ministry…

2 Tim 4:11  Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. (NKJ)

When opportunities are lost – are they lost forever?

The same opportunity may never be available again.  But that does not mean other opportunities, even greater ones – may not come later on in life.

Mark followed Barnabas and became the kind of faithful assistant and minister he had failed to be on the first missionary trip.

Ten years later – Paul commends Mark to the Colossian church and included him among the people who had been a comfort to him.

Colossians 4:10-11              Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him),
and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. (NKJ)

Paul was willing to forget his first impressions about John Mark.  He was willing to forgive the past as well as forget it.

Paul was nearing the end of his life.  In his final instructions – he asked Timothy to bring Mark with him.

Think what that must have meant to Mark.  Picture how he must of felt at that time.

Paul took special pains to point out that Mark had proved himself and was now useful.

This becomes even more significant when we read the words in 2 Timothy  4:10…

2 Timothy 4:10  for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica-- Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. (NKJ)

“I am not concerned that you have fallen. I am concerned that you arise.” —Abraham Lincoln

Joshua Becker gives us an encouraging Guide To Overcoming Failure…

1. We admit that we experience it. Despite the universality of failure, our world goes to great lengths to hide it. People always have and people always will. Our default position too often is to downplay our weaknesses, but those who find growth in failure begin by simply admitting its existence in their lives.

2. We recognize failure is common. And because we know all experience it, we find comfort knowing we are not alone in it.

3. We look for personal responsibility. Our initial tendency is often to blame others or uncontrollable, external factors. After all, to admit defeat is to admit defeat. But rarely are the failures in our lives entirely the responsibility of someone else. And until we take personal responsibility in some capacity, we can never move on to the next step.

4. We process our weakness. Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This holds true in both success and failure. When failure occurs, which it always will, the wisest of us journey inward to determine the cause and intentional steps we can take to learn from the experience. And in time, we learn to champion humility.

5. We let go of the factors outside our control. One of the most hope-filled moments in life is when we find the courage to let go of what we cannot change.

6. We grow through pain. We live in a society passionately committed to avoiding pain. But there is benefit to be found in discomfort. While I would never encourage anybody to intentionally seek pain through failure, it will arise. And when it does, it will be okay. In fact, it will teach us things we could never learn elsewhere: patience and perseverance for example.

7. We forgive. If our pain is partly a result of someone else’s failures, we find freedom in forgiveness.

8. We turn to others. Nobody successfully navigates life alone. When the hope inside us begins to fade, we look for it in others. We turn to family. If family is not available, we turn to friends. And if friends are not available, we look for intentional communities around us to find support.

9. And then, we share our stories. It may not happen right away—some failures take longer to process than others. But eventually, we find opportunity to share our story. When we do, we share it with honesty and humility. Through it, we discover opportunity to provide hope, strength, and encouragement to others. We find influence for good. And we begin to make sense of our failings.
Failure is never the end. It is instead, a necessary part of the journey. May we keep hope alive. And find redemption through it.
“I am not concerned that you have fallen. I am concerned that you arise.” —Abraham Lincoln




Monday, February 13, 2017

THE IMPORTANCE OF FRIENDS IN YOUR LIFE

I've been blessed with many good friends in my life.

How many friends do you have? I guess your answer to that question will vary depending on how you define a friend. We have best friends, good friends, old friends, family friends, Facebook friends, and everything in between!

I have many friends who have been friends since childhood.  We might not see each other for a whie but when we do see each other - we catch up really quick.

Then there are those came later in life that have I have forged a deep relationship with.

There are those who pop in and out but we remain friends nevertheless.

Friends are a wonderful thing. They make us laugh and lift our spirit with their presence. Our most memorable moments happen in their company. During difficult days, they surround us with love and support.

But no matter how many friends you have and how many moments you've shared, everyone reading this post shares one thing in common: we have never had, and have never been, a perfect friend.

By that, I simply mean that our friendships are never absent of disappointment. In some way, whether significant or insignificant, our friends have failed us, and we have failed our friends.

Think about it. While some of your deepest joys are the result of friends, so are your most painful hurts. There are nights with them that you never want to end, and then there are days when you wish you could live in isolation.

Friendship is an integral part of the human existence, and we all have been shaped significantly by relationships that are full of both bliss and sorrow.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS

It's important to know why God designed friendship and what he has to say about it. Through his Word, he has given us an accurate lens that will keep us from being naïve but also prevent us from becoming cynical.

Here are a few guiding principles about friends that should help keep your relationships healthy:

Friendships are intended

In Genesis 2:18, God says that it is not good for man to be alone. This statement is broader than just marriage and applies to God's design for all humanity.

The word "helper" used to describe Eve isn't defined her as a co-worker, but a companion. God created us live with companions because he is a social God, living in community within the Trinity as Father, Son, and Spirit.

There are benefits that come naturally from these friendships.

Having a companion for everyday life is a beautiful one. Having someone to comfort you during tough times is another (Job 2:11).

Honest friends who will call you to repent is a third of many more (Proverbs 27:6).

Christians, we need to seek out and immerse ourselves in community. While the "lone wolf" mentality is often applauded in our society, it is very dangerous and lonely to live in isolation. Don't cut yourself off from people, because you're cutting yourself off from your original intended design.

Friendships can become idols

While human companions are beautiful, the primary relationship Adam and Eve were designed to enjoy was their relationship with God.

Vertical communion with their Creator would provide the foundation for their horizontal community.

But since we tend to worship and serve creation more than the Creator (Romans 1:25), our friendships can become idols.

God has already given us everything we need in Christ alone for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

That means we don't need to seek perfect relational satisfaction in imperfect people.

The irony is that when we reverse the order and elevate people above God, we end up ruining those earthly relationships with the pressure we put on them to fulfill us!

Friendships will be difficult

The early history of friendship goes from perfect to bad to worse. The harmony of companionship disappears when Adam throws Eve under the bus to avoid blame (Genesis 3:12). Then, in the next chapter, Cain kills his brother Abel!

Many of us can't relate with murdering a brother or a friend, but the same sin that ruled Adam and Eve and Cain exists in our heart, and in the hearts of our friends.

We bring selfish motives, envy, greed, and more to our relationships, often without even knowing it. No wonder they're so messy! Don't be shocked when your friends let you down, or worse.

Friendships are redemptive

If God really loved us, wouldn't he make our relationships conflict-free? I wish!

But the fact of the matter is that the Lord's primary purpose in our life is redemption - the ongoing removal of sin from our heart (Philippians 1:6).

Nowhere is that sin more exposed than in relationship, where a flawed person lives with a flawed person in a fallen world.

When our sin, or our friend's sin, is exposed, we have two options: run away or lean in.

Do you hide in shame, defend yourself, shift the blame, criticize needlessly or harbor bitterness? Or do you confess your sin, seek forgiveness, speak truth, grant mercy, and encourage one another?

God's design is that the trials of redeeming friendships will test and strengthen your faith, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). Don't run away from these trials. Lean in and rejoice, even though you don't feel like rejoicing!

Friendships have hope

We all look for tips and tricks that will improve our friendships - more effective communication, conflict resolution strategies, gender studies, personality typing, etc.

Just go to the self-help section of any bookstore. But the reality is that there are no secrets that guarantee problem-free relationships.

Rather, our friendships have but one hope - Christ Jesus. The shattered relationship he experienced with his father at the Cross provides the basis for our two-fold reconciliation. Jesus reconciled us first to God, which then becomes the foundation for the way he reconciles us to one another.

What C.S. LEWIS SAID

I want to end with a powerful quote from C.S. Lewis. I know I just said there are no screts that guarantee problem-free relationships, but C.S. Lewis comes as close as it gets. He wrote: "When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased."

You see, when God reigns in our hearts, peace reigns in our friendships. Ultimate friendship will only be complete in heaven, but there is much we can enjoy now.

The New Testament offers hope that our relationships can be characterized by things like humility, gentleness, patience, edifying honesty, peace, forgiveness, compassion, and love.

Isn't it wonderful that God's grace can make this possible, even for flawed people in a fallen world?

This hope challenges whatever complacency and discouragement we might have about our friendships because there is always more growth, peace, and blessing that God's grace can bring, right here and right now.

The hope of the gospel invites us to a holy dissatisfaction with all of our relationships and encourages us to tackle the rewarding but difficult work of redemptive friendships.

I AM SO GLAD TO BE YOUR FRIEND.

Inspired by Paul Tripp

Thursday, February 9, 2017

TIGHT WITH GOD

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭33:11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬ “So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend...”

There is something I long for more than anything else in the world - to be in God’s presence in my daily walk with God.  I long to be “tight” with Him.  That - I would be able to speak to God face to face and be in an intimate relationship with Him.

But there’s a problem - life happens!  The events of life, the routine’s of life, the day by day pressures drain God’s presence from our lives in our lives.  There has to be a constant re-calibrating and refilling of our lives with the presence of God.

Yes, walking with God and His presence is my desire but I often find myself drifting off the trail to whatever is pressing most in my life.

I was struck this morning in our devotions about Moses and the re-calibration that he needed in his life.  In fact, it seemed like Moses had to have many meeting with God along these lines.

Reading this story helped me see that I’m not the only one who had to do this.  Moses led the way over and over again.

In Exodus 33 we see that Moses was able to to do “face-time” with God but there’s more to the story…. God had to deal with some issues in his life.

There are 3 key words in this story…

1. v.5  "Obstinate  (stiffnecked)
2. v.7  "Sought"
3. v.13  "Show" (know)
These 3 words outline a pathway to restored intimacy with God.
I can relate to all 3 of these words.  There are times that I’m obstinate and stiff necked about God.  I fight Him over everything.

Then, I finally wake up and realize how far away from Him that I’ve become.  It is then that I begin to seek His presence again and to ask Him to show me His glory and that I would again walk in His presence.

Just a thought - I know when I’m walking with God or not.  No one needs to tell me.  I can tell when He and I are good or not.

It is interesting: we know the word worthy relates to "worship" in the Bible.  It also has to do with "weight."

Gr.  oxios  background has to do with the sustenance of a coin.  (Coins that were minted without the technology of today.  In those days just the handling of coins could wear it thin."

When a person would buy something  their coins would be weighed and given their worth.  Often they would be worth less because of their weight but not worthless (with no value).

To be refilled with glory does not require that you have a major sin in your life.  Often times it is just the wear and tear of life which causes a thinness to come in.

God is calling us from anything that is unworthy (that which is not up to the full potential God has for our lives.)

God is calling us to Him to come away from everything that is shallow and shabby in comparison.  God is calling us to come and be renewed.

Our problem is not walking in God's glory or even not having a passion for it but failing to perceive where thinness has come in.

Many things crop up in our lives that are unworthy to God.  The only way back to worthiness is to kneel in His presence and first confess that which is unworthy.

The Psalmist said, "Search me and try my thoughts and see if there be any wicked ways in me."

We must be clothed again in renewal. We must have carefulness in speech, discipline, conduct, entertainment, speech, etc.

Moses repented of his obstinance.  He sought for God’s presence and asked God to show him the way back to God.

When people come from God's presence there is a “shining” as with Moses  Exodus 34:29.

Exodus 34:29 (NKJV) 34:29  Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses' hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.  

When Moses recognized that he had drifted away from God and repented - God showed up.  If you are wondering where God is and what happened to the closeness that you once felt - perhaps it's not that God moved away but you did.

God is willing and waiting  for you to make your move.  Blessings await.

Monday, January 23, 2017

WRESTLING WITH GOD


Genesis 32:24-26 (NKJV) Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25  Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26  And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks." But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!"

I think that everyone of us has a season where we actually end up wrestling with God over the direction of our lives.

Speaking for myself, this has been on ongoing event of God bringing me into alignment with His perfect will.

To be honest, for the most part, I don’t like it.  I don’t like change and I often struggle with God to fight for control of my life and ministry.

The sad part is this, the older we get – the harder it is to change.  What do they say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

When I was younger – it seemed a lot easier and I seemed more pliable.  Ugh!  I hate this reality about myself.

People say that they want change.  Just look on the internet and look at all the self help books that are for sale.

But the great tragedy of life is that sometimes we don’t want to change for the better.
In Genesis 32 we see the process that God uses in changing Jacob.  God is helping him become a different kind of person – a better person.

This event in Jacob’s life was a turning point in Jacob’s life and serves as an example of God can change us also.

Keep in mind that Jacob was kind of a shifty sort of fellow.  If you recall, in Genesis 27 that he tricked his father into giving him the blessing that was intended for his older brother Esau.

Did you know that Jacob’s name means cheater or scammer? He even ended up scamming his uncle Laban to gain more sheep for his own flock.

Before Jacob could move on – God needed to deal with him and bring some alignment into his life.  Thus the night of wrestling with God.

Jacob ended up wresting with God all night long – till the break of day.

It was such a transforming experience that it literally changed Jacob into the man after God’s own heart.

In this passage – there is a 4 step process of change.

   1.    The first step is CRISIS

Our text says: “Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”

This was no ordinary man for later on we see that Jacob says, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.

Some will say that he wrestled with an angel and others will say that it was pre manifestation of Jesus himself. Either way – it was some divine being.

Jacob found himself in a real fix – he had gotten himself involved in a wrestling match with a heavenly being.  He was having a real struggle – and worst of all he came to realize that he was in a no-win situation.

Here’s a fact: God often uses a crisis to get out attention. Have you ever got yourself into a fix that you couldn’t get out of?  I know I have.

Psalm 86:7 (NKJV)  In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, For You will answer me.

Just like a mother eagle that stirs the nest of her young to encourage them to fly – so God will at times stir your nest so you can be everything God wants you to be.

    2.    The second step is COMMITMENT

Look at what Jacob said – “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Jacob was committed – He was persistent – he stayed with the situation until he received a blessing.  

He  was in a situation that he didn’t like – it was frustrating – it was getting him down – he was tired – but he said, “I am 100 % committed to staying with the situation until God blessed me.”

    3.    The third step is CONFESSION

After Jacob tells the wrestler he was not going to let go until he received a blessing – the wrestler said to Jacob: “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”

What was the purpose of that question?  I think it was to get Jacob to acknowledge his character by stating his name – his name meant “cheater” or “schemer.”

Jacob had a long history of cheating scheming.  He had cheated his brother Esau.  He had lied to his father and deceived him.  He also deceived his uncle Laban.

So, the question was asked: “What is your name?  What are you really like?  Who are you really?”

Jacob answered, “My name is Jacob.”  By saying his name Jacob admitted, “I’m a cheater.  I’m a schemer.”  He admitted his weaknesses because he was honest.  When he identified himself as “Jacob,” he was admitting his character flaws.

This is an important process in God changing us, because we never change until we honestly face and admit our faults and sins and weaknesses and mistakes.

God will no to to work on our problem until we first admit that we’ve got a problem.  We need to say, “Lord, I’m a mess.  I’ve got a problem and I admit it.”  It’s at that point that God can go to work.

   4.    The fourth step is COOPERATION.

After Jacob confessed to God – God said: “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”

Jacob did not argue with God about the name change.  After had a personal encounter with God he knew his life would not longer be the same.  God changed Jacob from a cheater and schemer to an 
Israel – a “Prince of God.”

God saw all of Jacob’s weaknesses and faults – but He also saw Jacob’s potential.

God always knows how to bring out the best in a person’s life.  He knows how to do it better than we do.

It’s interesting that at the end of the wrestling match that God put his hip out of place (32:24-31).  He would forever have a limp that would remind him of the night that God wrestled with Jacob.

I was thinking the other day of all the scars I have on my body – believe me, there are plenty as I was a very active kid.

But those scars remind me of the bad decisions I have made in life and that God has spared me over and over.

So, if you find yourself wrestling with God today – understand that you will not win until you surrender to Him and that He alone knows what is best for you and your life.

Moving forward – with a limp.