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Posts tagged ‘failure’

God’s Love Won’t Let Me Go — Regardless

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Ruth Myers

The Love That Won’t Let Go

God’s passion for His children is unlike any other love we’ll ever experience.

When I was a teenager, God began to deepen my appreciation for His love through “The Love of God,” a song made famous by George Beverly Shea. This song describes God’s love as “greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.” If the skies were a scroll and the oceans filled with ink, the song goes on to say, and if every stalk on earth were a writing quill, we still could never write in full this love God has for us. The skies could not contain it. The oceans would run dry.

Through the years since then, the Lord has been weaving into my life a richer awareness of how lavishly He loves me (and all of us) and how deeply He longs for each of us to experience His love. My heart has been opened again and again to delightful discoveries that have made me feel more satisfied and at rest in Him, more alive in His love, more liberated, more secure.

In God we find the kind of love we most deeply need. If we want real love, ideal love, perfect love, God’s heart is where to find it. It’s the only love big enough to meet the God-sized needs of your life and mine.

Just Because

Because you are a special treasure to God, He is working to draw you into a deeper love for Him—away from any idols in your life, away from rival interests, away from giving first place to His good gifts instead of to Him.

In Jer. 31:3, the Lord tells His people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (NKJV). Every hour since you first met Him, He has been pursuing you, seeking to draw you closer as a mother draws her child, as a bridegroom his bride. He wants you near.

God loves us “just because.”

His love defies human logic. It doesn’t make sense. And yet there are reasons. I think of at least two:

First, God loves us because He is love. It’s His nature to love.

Second, He loves us because He made us.

Sin has destroyed some of the beauty of His design that He must now work to restore; but He made each of us with great skill, and we have unique value to Him. Because He made us for Himself, in His image, we have the potential of intimate relationship with Him. He prizes us and wants us for Himself. He loves us for what a love relationship with Him can mean to us—and to Him—now, in this life. He also loves us for what He knows we’ll become for all eternity. He eagerly awaits the delights in store for Him and us when we will dwell with Him forever in joyful, unbroken fellowship.

We read in Dt. 7:7 and 10:15 that God set His love upon His people—He “fastened” it upon them, as The Berkeley Version says. I like that. There’s a gentle but unyielding persistence about the love of God, a tenacious tenderness toward each person who has responded to Him. He loves us and holds on and won’t let us go.

From Everlasting to Everlasting

What is God’s love like? The tenacious love of God is both eternal and changeless. These two concepts are wonderfully linked.

“The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him” (Ps. 103:17,RSV). From everlasting to everlasting. Let’s look at this phrase more closely.

From everlasting, before I ever existed, God loved me. Long before I was born, He looked ahead and fastened His affection upon me. His love for me began in His foreknowledge of me. When He decided to love me, I did not yet even exist. His love is not mine because I merit it, for He fastened His love upon me before I ever did one thing, good or bad.

Before we were born, He already knew the worst about us, and nothing that happens now can surprise or disillusion Him. He has never had any illusions about anyone or anything. He doesn’t suddenly discover some truth about one of us and think, Oh, why did I ever choose to love him or her? I like what J. I. Packer says in Knowing God: “God’s love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on the prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”

Therefore, in the midst of my failures and struggles when I feel so undeserving, I never have to think, Oh dear, does He still love me? His love for each of us is never rooted in our worthiness, but rather in His own nature.

God says to us, “It’s not because you earned it or worked so hard for it that I have loved you. And I don’t continue loving you because you manage to maintain a high enough standard in My eyes. No, I simply made a permanent choice to love you.”

That choice will never change. He loved me from everlasting and will love me to everlasting. His love for me—and for you—will never end. It’s a lifelong, eternity-long relationship, now and forever available to meet our every need as we seek to know Him better.

Even When We Rebel

We see God’s unchanging love in an especially beautiful way in the book of Hosea. There God declared that He still loved His people “though they turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1). Hosea’s message shows God’s constant love for His people, even when they spurned Him and persisted in rebelling against Him.

God speaks these words to His people in Hos. 11:8: “How can I give you up, Israel? . . . My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong” (Good News Bible). And the New Living Translation puts it this way, “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? . . . My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.”

This was His attitude toward them even though they had persistently rebelled against Him. God had patiently sent them warnings over the centuries, but so often they refused to listen. Finally, He had to send severe chastening. They needed it, and He gave it. But even that chastening was evidence of His love, just as it is in our lives. Throughout it all His attitude was still, “How can I let you go?” He cannot give us up. He cannot abandon us. His love for us is too strong.

How that relieves my heart!

Even when I’m letting something else be more important to me than God, God is still loving me. Even when He must discipline me, He says, “I won’t go one bit further than I have to for your good, and I would never cut you off from My love. My heart would never allow it.” He recoils at the very thought of ever withdrawing His love for us.

Psalm 73:26 begins, “My flesh and my heart may fail”—yes, this will happen to us in different ways all through life. Our bodies and souls may grow weak and waste away. And worse than that, we may inwardly and outwardly fail to trust and obey the Lord. But we can come right back to Him, confess how we have failed, and let the Lord love us. Then we can go on to personalize the last part of this verse, saying with the psalmist, “Lord, You are the strength of my heart, the source of my stability; and You are my chosen portion forever.”

Love without Limits

God’s love is incalculably great. His love is abounding, vast, infinite. His love has no limitations, no boundaries. In both duration and extent it is limitless. We’ll never be able to get out of it or away from it or beyond it.

Notice the description of God’s love in Eph. 3:16–19. Paul speaks of how the Spirit within us strengthens us so that we can, in fuller measure, have Christ dwelling within us. He says, “I pray . . . that your life will be strong in love and be built on love” (Eph 3:17, NCV). He goes on to pray that we will know in actual experience the greatness of Christ’s love—that we will understand more fully its boundless dimensions, how long and wide and high and deep it is, though it is far greater than anyone can ever know.

God’s love is limitless. This means there are no bounds to the encouragement and hope and strength it can give us. Once I found myself under unusual pressure while my husband, Warren, was gone for almost a month. Situations arose that were difficult for me to cope with. In those stressful weeks the Lord deeply ministered to me through 2 Thess. 2:16–17: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us unending encouragement and unfailing hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (paraphrase based on NASB and Phillips).

Here is His personal, loving touch: encouragement and hope that never fail because they are by grace, not based on my deserving. My heart—and yours—may often fail and our resources prove to be inadequate. But the Lord Himself, who loves us, is always ready to inspire us with courage and confidence, as J. B. Phillips puts it.

The Lord does not parcel out little dabs of love—”Well, you’ve been good children today, so I’ll love you a little bit.” No, His love flows freely. It overflows, coming to us in an abounding way. We read in Ro. 5:5 that God’s love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. “It floods our hearts,” as James Moffatt translates it. It’s a tremendous outpouring of love—not in skimpy measure, but rather in a flood, an inundation.

And He has put right within us the source of this abounding love—the Holy Spirit—so His love can be poured out abundantly throughout our whole being. We don’t have to settle for trivial little insights into His love. We can experience vastly more of it than we do at present, if we truly want to—if we open ourselves to Him and His Word, seeking and yielding and trusting.

The Grace behind His Love

God’s love is linked inseparably with His grace, His attitude of unmerited favor toward us. Grace is the basis on which He first chose us in His love, and His overflowing grace is the basis on which He continues to lavish His love upon us.

We read in Ro. 5:20 in the Wuest translation that where sin abounded, “grace superabounded with more added to that.” There are no words to adequately convey the abundance of God’s grace. So we can just say that it “superabounds—with more added to that”!

God’s love is so great that no sin is too great for Him to forgive. We can always approach His throne of grace and receive forgiveness, whether for a large, even scandalous sin, or for any of the mass of little failures that get us down so that we think, Oh, do I have to confess that again?

The flow of God’s love never stops; it always shines forth undimmed. But our response determines whether it gets through to us. We can pull the blinds—or we can open them. We choose what we’ll let ourselves be filled with, and God respects our choice. He does not force His love on us. But at all times His love flows and shines—perfect, unwavering, available to meet our needs.

We see this unchanging flow of God’s love portrayed in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The father was waiting for the son to turn his back on his rebellion and return home. And when he saw him coming, he didn’t have to think twice about responding with fervent love. The flow of his love had never lessened, though the son had strayed to a far country and into terrible sin.

All of us need this grace. To the person with desperate needs who is willing to admit them, God shows His love. Do you qualify? I know I do. I qualify because I have needs—desperate needs. And He has made me willing to admit them and let Him meet them. When I fail to recognize how needy I am, He graciously works to remind me (at times in painful ways). And He renews my willingness to say, “Lord, I’m so messed up, so needy, so unable to obey You and to handle life in my own strength. So I bring my deep needs to You.”

As we mature through the years, we see shortcomings and areas of neglect in our lives that we didn’t know were there. So often, when we feel we’re doing well (if we’ve been victorious and had our quiet time every day and learned Bible verses and been nice to our family and our neighbors), then we think, God surely loves me today. Then we drop into those low times—we’re sure there’s no way He could love us now. So at the very point where we need His love most, we don’t even dare come before Him to seek and experience it. We forget that He has always loved us, even when we had absolutely no use for Him at all. And He will always love us—just because.

Sacrificial Love

When it comes to human love, we like to see action as well as words, don’t we?

Words, of course, are important. A wife never tires of hearing her husband tell her again, “I love you.” God gives us plenty of words to tell us He loves us, but He also acts upon that love. His greatest action was sending His Son to suffer humiliation and anguish for us when we still had no use for Him. He was willing to pay the highest price possible so that we could belong to Him, so that He could have a loving relationship with us.

His love for you and me is a costly love. In the Wuest translation of 1 Jn. 4:7 we read that God’s love is “divine and self-sacrificial.” This, again, points us to the cross—the ultimate sacrifice. Such love is foreign to our nature. Humans love like this only when their love comes from God.

In Ro. 5:6–8 we read:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And because of this sacrifice, “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Ro. 5:11).

Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). A human love will conceivably die for a friend—though only the greatest of human loves would ever dare to do it. Jesus, however, died for His enemies, so that He could make us His friends, bringing us into intimate relationship with Himself. That’s how much He desires to have us near Him.

Only God is the source of such love. His is truly the greatest love of all.

The Favor of the King

In this, as in all that God gives us, He is immeasurably generous. His love gives and gives and is never depleted, because His power and resources are unlimited. He never has need to give in a grudging way. As Eph. 3:20 says, He’s able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think—beyond our fondest dreams. He’s a total giver who loves to give, who delights to do good for us, so that we can live truly abundant lives.

Romans 5:17 speaks of what Christ has done for believers and how “by their acceptance of his more than sufficient grace and righteousness” people can now “live their lives victoriously” (Phillips). We have this possibility of living royally because of the abundance of God’s grace. As we have seen, grace means “unmerited favor,” favor that we don’t have to earn, favor that we don’t deserve. In fact, we deserve just the opposite!

And whose favor is it? The favor of the King of kings. Favor that flows out from Him toward us. And as we receive it, realizing we are highly favored by the only truly important person who exists, it does something in our hearts. If we belong to the King of kings, we can be sure of His favor whenever we approach Him.

God loves to honor our requests and bestow His favors upon us. God delights to do the things that delight us, and so He gives to us lavishly. He is not a stingy God. When Jesus came to this earth, His purpose was to share with us His true and eternal treasures. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

These riches include everything we need here on earth for a full spiritual life and a satisfying emotional life. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

This is all ours to enjoy as we seek to know Him better.

What to do When You’re Waiting for God to Deliver You

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Over the years, I’ve observed countless people who become derailed by the circumstances of life. Speaking as one who has failed many times, the key to long-term success is often in how you respond during the darkest days of your life.

I’ve always enjoyed the advice God gave His people when they were in captivity by a rival nation. Immediately before He told them they would be in captivity for 70 years, He told them to:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.  Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Jeremiah 29:5-7

He told them to keep living! In time (70 years in this case), He would deliver them, but in the meantime, they were to live life as they already knew to live.

By the way, that’s the passage from which we get a favored verse…one we love to cling to and offers us hope:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

If you are in a season of captivity…if you can’t seem to find your way these days…if you are waiting for God to deliver you…don’t stop doing the good things you know to do. Don’t stop moving forward with what you have today. Don’t neglect the relationships you have now during your mourning of the relationship that you’ve lost.  Seek ways to bless others as you wait for your blessing.

Don’t give up! Push forward, clinging to your faith, while you wait for God’s deliverance.

What you do and how you respond during the difficult days often determine the degree of success and enjoyment of the good days. Learning to navigate through droughts, disappointments and failure is a key to enjoying the best of life and living as a person of faith.

Start Over

Source:   Dr.Woodrow Kroll

 

When you’ve trusted Jesus and walked His way,

When you’ve felt His hand lead you day by day,

But your steps now take you another way   …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve made your plans and they’ve gone awry,

When you’ve tried your best ’til there’s no more try,

When you’ve failed yourself and you don’t know why …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve told your friends what you plan to do,

When you’ve trusted them but they’ve not come through,

Now you’re all alone and it’s up to you …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve failed your kids and they’re grown and gone,

When you’ve done your best but it turned out wrong,

And now your grandchildren have come along …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve prayed to God so you’ll know His will,

When you’ve prayed and prayed but you don’t know still,

When you want to stop cause you’ve had your fill …   START OVER.

 

When you think you’re finished and want to quit,

When you’ve bottomed out in life’s deepest pit,

When you’ve tried and tried to get out of it …   START OVER.

 

When the year’s been long and successes few,

When December comes and you’re feeling blue,

God gives a January just for you …   START OVER.

 

Starting over means victories won,

Starting over means a race we run,

Starting over means the Lord’s “Well done,”

… so don’t just sit there …   START OVER.

Nothing Helps! Here I Am Again! What Now?

SOURCE:  Dan Strickland/Living Free

“But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

“It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

“The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” Romans 7:17-25 MSG


Perhaps you have an attitude problem: pride, jealousy, impatience. Or maybe you are struggling with a behavior that you know is wrong: gossip, anger, broken promises. Or perhaps an addiction has taken control: drinking, drugs, pornography.

Habits like these have several things in common: They hurt you. They hurt others. And you cannot overcome them by yourself.

Perhaps you have determined to change. For a while things were better and then you found yourself right back where you started. The above Scripture describes the struggle so well—even the apostle Paul fought the battle. But he also learned the answer: Jesus. Only through Jesus can we find complete freedom from life-destructive habits.

You might wonder why Jesus would be willing to help you after you’ve messed up again and again. The answer is that he loves you. Unconditionally.

Recovery is a process. Developing the habit took time, and overcoming it will too. But with Jesus’ help, you can do it.

Father, I was so determined not to fall into this sin again. But here I am. I know I can’t do this alone and thank you for being here. Help me to remember that recovery is a process and to keep my eyes on Jesus. In His name …

————————————————————————————————————————-


These thoughts were drawn from …


Completely Free! A Group Study of Romans 1-8
by Dan Strickland.

You Don’t Have to Live with Guilt

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance” (Proverbs 28:13 TLB).

God is always ready to give you another chance.

That’s a bedrock piece of Christianity. We’ve all been irresponsible. We’ve all screwed up. The Bible tells us, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT).

God doesn’t want you living with a heavy guilt trip about all the irresponsibility in your life. Guilt destroys your confidence, damages your relationships, keeps you stuck in the past, and even hurts your health. I read a report a few years back that said 70 percent of people in the hospital could leave if they knew how to resolve their guilt.

God wants far better for your life than that. You don’t want to live with guilt.

And here’s an important truth to always hang on to: You don’t have to.

God wants you to live with a sense of promise and hope. God can even bring good out of the stupid decisions that you’ve made in your life if you’ll give those failures to him.

How do you do that?

Admit to God you’ve made a mistake. It doesn’t surprise him. And it won’t change his perception of you. I hope you’ll take this step today. When you do, here’s what you can expect from God:

  1. God forgives instantly. The very moment you admit your sin to God, he forgives you.
  2. God forgives freely. You don’t need to earn it, and you’ll never deserve it.
  3. God forgives completely. He wipes your sin absolutely clean.

If you’re mired in guilt and shame, you’ll likely perpetuate whatever problem you have. You’ll tell yourself that you blew it, so you’re bad. Since you’re bad, you believe you’ll blow it again. It’s a nasty cycle from which we often can’t seem to escape — at least not on our own.

You need a power beyond yourself.

You need a Savior.

You need Jesus.

5 Things to Teach Your Kids About Failure

SOURCE:  iMom

My own experiences with failure have been some of my most important life lessons. I learned things I never would have learned any other way.

My own experiences with failure have been some of my most important life lessons. I learned things I never would have learned any other way. Growing up, every time I had to speak publicly, I was terrified, and most often felt like I failed because I wasn’t articulate enough. I hated the feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that public speaking brought up for me. I kept trying though and pushing through those awful feelings until eventually I learned how to speak publicly without any fear at all. If I would have let my first failure keep me from trying again, I never would have had the joy of sharing my life story and speaking to thousands of people at a stadium event.

It’s never easy to watch our children fail. But we can take heart that failure can actually make our children stronger, more resilient and more empathetic if we teach them to handle failure the right way.

Here are 5 things to teach your kids about dealing with failure.

1. Failure Happens to Everyone.

Even the best baseball players get hits only 3 out of 10 times at the plate. No one wins them all. It’s a normal part of life. Teach your kids to expect failure, and help them realize it’s okay to fail, because we learn from our mistakes and failures.

Teach your kids to expect failure, and help them realize it’s okay to fail, because we learn from our mistakes and failures.

2. Failure Isn’t a License to be a Bad Sport.

Failing is not a good feeling, and it’s okay to be sad or disappointed when we fail. But we don’t want to take it too far and start blaming others or pouting. Teach them to find the lesson in it, which can soften the negative feelings. Help them learn how to not be too hard on themselves.

3. Failure Can Lead to Success.

Thomas Edison tried dozens and dozens of times before he invented the modern light bulb.  We really can learn from our mistakes. Help them process through their mistakes and failures, so they can see the process of learning in action.

4. Failure Teaches Us Humility.

If we don’t experience failure, how can we really relate and encourage others when they are experiencing defeat?

5. Failure is Not Who We Are.

We need to teach our children that their true value comes from just being. They need to know they are loved, whether they win or lose, make a mistake or not.

What Do I Do With My Regrets?

SOURCE:  Jon Gauger/Family Life Today

Rather than letting go of our regrets, we often escalate the trauma by further indulging them.

I should be dead by now. Really.

Thankfully, as a boy of 15, I underwent surgery for scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Had my parents not opted for such a treatment, statistics say I wouldn’t be alive today because of the crushing my internal organs would have received from the twisting of my own spine. If not dead, my torso would resemble something like the fictional Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The surgery was no minor deal. First, an incision was made from my waist to the top of my shoulders (about two feet long). After straightening the spine and fastening two metal rods (each rod about a foot long) into the vertebrae, the surgeon chipped tiny fragments off my hip and then carefully placed them along the vertebrae to create a bone fusion.

Recovery was slow. Every four hours I was rotated from my back to my stomach on a circular bed frame resembling equipment from a circus acrobatic act. After nearly two weeks of rotating bed confinement, I was informed that the next day would be “casting day,” when I would get a plaster cast covering most of my upper body, allowing for near normal mobility. I distinctly recall the nurse warning me the night before. “Your incision is healing, and you’ll likely feel an itching sensation tonight. Whatever you do, don’t scratch your scar.”

But what I felt that night was more than an itching sensation. It was an itching assault. An itching warfare. I scratched (bad decision). And the scars itched more. I scratched more. And the scars itched still more. At the height of this agony (I do not overstate the moment), it was all I could do to force myself to clench the tubular steel of the circular frame bed and quote every Bible verse I’d ever learned over and over. It remains the most awful night of my life.

Who knew a scar could cause so much pain?

Regrets are scars of the soul.

We carry them around with us, and every now and then they itch. So we scratch them. We replay that thoughtless deed, that hurtful conversation. But instead of relief, we sense only a greater discomfort. Rather than let these memories go, we often escalate the trauma by further indulging our regrets.

What should we do with our scars when they assault us at night or in moments of tired reflection?

Scars, medical experts tell us, require regular and proper care (mine still itch or get occasional scabs). But what kind of care is there for scars of the soul? It’s a question we put to our contributors. Just what should we do with our regrets?

Walter Wangerin

This is simple: Pray for forgiveness. Ask the Christ who fought the devil to come and speak to our regret. Invariably, the word the Lord brings us is, “Go and sin no more. I have forgiven you. Now go on. Get up. Go back to your life and be better than you were.”

George Verwer

I read a long time ago that regret is the most subtle form of self-love. The temptation to regret comes the same way as any other temptation. What we need to do is readily embrace the gift of God’s grace. A lot of people have had their lives filled with failure, yet they do really well at the end. We need to encourage one another with that. Regarding our specific regrets, God has forgiven us. He knows how to work things out for good, so we can’t dwell on regret. We have to somehow move forward because it’s a form of anxiety to dwell on our regrets, paying too much attention to ourselves. We need to claim God’s forgiveness and grace and press on.

Kay Arthur

What do we do with our regrets? Now that’s a question I can answer readily for two reasons. One, I messed up so much before I came to know genuine salvation at the age of 29, and it had great ramifications. Second, I am a perfectionist. I battle with, “I could have done it better, I should have, I wish I had, why didn’t I?” This is where I must run to the open arms of my Sovereign God and all His promises and bring them to bear on my regrets. Also, I would add that we need to remember Satan is the accuser of the children of God (Revelation 12:10-11), so I have to stay dressed in His armor, rejoicing that He will make me “stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

The first thing we have to do is thank God for grace. Go back to the cross. Preach the gospel to ourselves and realize, “I am not the Christ. I am a sinner who needs a Savior—and thank God I have a Savior.” I thank God He has not dealt with me according to my sins or as I deserve. The sum total of my life will not be about how well I performed, how well I lived up to my goals, or how successfully I overcame my bad habits or sinful patterns. When it’s said and done, the sum total will be Christ my righteousness. He took my sin—He who had no sin—on Himself. He clothed me in His righteousness, and that is the only basis on which I will ever be able to stand before God and not be ashamed. Every day I have to preach that gospel back to myself and live in the constant conscious awareness that Christ is my life. He is my righteousness. He is my only hope in life and in death.

James MacDonald

Romans 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I believe all of our sins—past, present, and future—are under the blood of Christ, that we’re forgiven. I think we need to live as forgiven people. Second Corinthians 7:10 says, “The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Genuine repentance is not thinking about what I should have done or what I could have done. It’s thinking about what Christ has done, and living in that. When your kids were little and they would act up, what you wanted was for them to forsake the bad behavior and go forward. That’s what I believe the Lord wants for us. Not to wallow in our failures, but to revel in His grace and to give it to others.

Joni Eareckson Tada

I love to read passages in Scripture that remind me that God has a poor memory when it comes to my sin. He remembers my sin no more (Isaiah 43:25). He separates me from my sin as far as the east is from the west, as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11-12). That is what makes the Good News so great! God will not remember our sins. You know what? We shouldn’t either.

Michael W. Smith

You use regrets for good. That’s one reason I started Rocketown, a club for kids in Nashville. I love speaking to youth. I’m able to say, “Hey, guys, let me tell you my story.” Based on my own experiences, I have a little bit of credibility talking to some kid who is smoking dope every day and getting high, struggling with drugs. I say, “I’ve been there.” He might respond, “Yeah, whatever.” Then I tell him my story, and all of a sudden he’s listening because I have been there. I get to say, “Guys, it’s a dead-end street. It’ll take you down. This is not what your destiny is.” Regret gives me an opportunity to speak into kids’ lives because of the fact that I’ve been there.

You Don’t Have to Live with Guilt

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.”(Proverbs 28:13 TLB)

God is always ready to give you another chance. That’s a bedrock piece of Christianity. We’ve all been irresponsible. We’ve all screwed up. The Bible tells us,“Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT, second edition).

God doesn’t want you living with a heavy guilt trip about all the irresponsibility in your life. Guilt destroys your confidence, damages your relationships, keeps you stuck in the past, and even hurts your health. I read a report a few years back that said 70 percent of people in the hospital could leave if they knew how to resolve their guilt.

God wants far better for your life than that. You don’t want to live with guilt. And here’s an important truth to always hang on to: You don’t have to.

God wants you to live with a sense of promise and hope. God can even bring good out of the stupid decisions that you’ve made in your life if you’ll give those failures to him.

How do you do that?

Admit to God you’ve made a mistake. It doesn’t surprise him. And it won’t change his perception of you. I hope you’ll take this step today. When you do, here’s what you can expect from God:

  1. God forgives instantly. The very moment you admit your sin to God, he forgives you.
  2. God forgives freely. You don’t need to earn it, and you’ll never deserve it.
  3. God forgives completely. He wipes your sin absolutely clean.

If you’re mired in guilt and shame, you’ll likely perpetuate whatever problem you have. You’ll tell yourself that you blew it, so you’re bad. Since you’re bad, you believe you’ll blow it again. It’s a nasty cycle from which we often can’t seem to escape — at least not on our own.

You need a power beyond yourself. You need a Savior. You need Jesus.

10 Mistakes Smart Parents Make

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Most people try their best to be good parents. They love their kids. They want them to grow up and be healthy, happy, God fearing, self-supporting individuals. But there are some things that many good parents do that hinder their children’s growth and maturity, here are the top ten.

1. Praising talent instead of effort. Studies show that repeatedly praising a child for being smart, beautiful, or talented does not improve their self-confidence or self-esteem. It actually has the opposite effect and makes them more insecure and afraid to try new things.  (Mindset by Carol Dweck is a great resource for understanding the research about this and how to help your child have the right mindset for growth). Instead of saying to your child, “You’re smart at math”, praise her for her hard work figuring out a tough problem.

 2. Emphasizing achievement over character.  At the end of the day, what will bring your child the most happiness and satisfaction in life is not the size of her paycheck or the number of degrees after her name but the kind of person she has become as well as the quality of her relationships.  Poor character qualities will lead to a failed life even if you look successful on the outside. Proverbs 16:23; 20:11; 23:23.

3. Giving freedom without requiring responsibility.Adolescence is a tough time to parent and sometimes it’s easier to give into our child’s tantrums than to hold her accountable to fulfill her responsibilities.  One of the most important lessons parents much teach their child is to be responsible and take responsibility for her own choices and behavior.

4. Trying to be super-mom or dad. Stop doing for your kids what they should be doing for themselves. As they age, give them more responsibility such as time management for homework, cleaning their room, doing their own laundry. The goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job so that your child doesn’t need you anymore.

5. Not helping your child see you are a person, not just a parent.  Along with super-parent syndrome, I find a woman may tend to over-function in her role as a mother and fails to teach her children that she is also a person who has her own dreams, needs, and feelings.

As our children mature, the parent child relationship ought to become more reciprocal with a child showing more consideration for her parent’s feelings or needs. Doing this models healthy relationship skills as well as reminds your child that life is not all about her and what she wants all the time.

 6. Not following through on stated consequences. If we don’t teach our kids when they are young that there are consequences to their choices and behaviors they will experience a painful awakening when they move into adulthood.  Today many people are miserable and perpetually angry that life and other people have not given them what they deserve instead of understanding their decisions and behaviors have consequences.  Proverbs 19:3

7. Being too busy to give unstructured or uninterrupted time to your child.  It pains me to watch entire families in a restaurant together all checking their cell phones. Your child learns social skills and gains emotional intelligence through interacting with real people in family life.  A child needs to feel that she is important to you and when you give her your time, energy, and uninterrupted attention, she feels it.

8. Giving them too much stuff.  “Mom please, please, please, buy me this one thing.  I won’t ever ask for anything else.  Just this iPhone or video game and I’ll be happy forever.”  What parent hasn’t heard that plea? And yet a week later, your child wants something more.

Overindulgence sends a wrong message. It tells your kids that things will make her happy.  It teaches her that having more satisfies and yet the truth is, more doesn’t satisfy. More just makes us hungry for more.  Instead teach your children to be content and grateful for what they have instead of always pining for more.

9. Not practicing what you preach. If you say something is important to you like God or faith or integrity or family and yet your actions show something different, your children will do as you do and not as you say.  Life is caught and not taught and when you live a double life, your children are smart enough to see it.

 10. Not praying enough for our children. I know it’s hard to pray. It can feel dry, even boring. But God says to pray and pray without ceasing.  I wish I had prayed more for my children.  There is so much in life that is completely out of our hands. Yet God loves our child more than we do and he wants us to pray for their safety, their growth, as well as their spiritual awakening and development. Prayer makes a difference and therefore, commit daily to pray for your child.

If you see yourself in some of the top ten mistakes, it’s not too late to change. God is always in the process of waking us up to something so that we can be conformed to his image. Don’t let Satan accuse you.

Instead thank God and the Holy Spirit that he has opened your eyes to some things you need to change, and then with God’s help, change them.

God Doesn’t Promise You’ll Be ‘Successful’

SOURCE:  Relevant Magazine/Rachael Graf

How Jesus turned the system upside down.

As a young adult who was raised in a Christian home and who attends a Christian university, I have experienced a phenomenon I like to call “Christian success.” Usually, it runs along the lines of something like this:

“We broke the box office!”

“Trending on Twitter!”

“Number one for eight consecutive weeks!”

“100,000 members strong!”

Where did this idea of “Christian success” come from, and why have we equated influence with notoriety?

To many people of his day, Jesus was a poor, homeless, blaspheming rabbi. He was hated and rejected by many. He spoke of a kingdom not of this world, spent most of his time with sinners, broke the rules and washed dirty feet. And he claimed to be the Messiah—the king. Jesus did not fit the description of a successful, conquering king. If we really think about it, Jesus, from the perspective of his culture, was a failure.

Even Pope Francis thinks so. In his homily at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral back in September, Pope Francis spoke about Christian hard work and self-sacrifice. The danger, he warned, is when we

Get caught up measuring the value of our apostolic works by the standards of efficiency, good management and outward success which govern the business world. While affirming the desire for Christian excellence, he reminded his audience to look to the example of Jesus, “The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds: God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and produce no fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus … and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, in the failure of the cross.

When Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, He did not promise them success. In fact, He guaranteed them failure: “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Luke 21:17).

He told his disciples to take up their crosses and follow him (Matthew 16:24-26). He told them that the gate is narrow and the way is hard (Matt. 7:13-14). He told them that whoever wanted to be the greatest had to be a servant (Mark 10:43-45). He told them that he was going to the cross (Matthew 17:22-23). And he did. And many of his disciples deserted him.

They left because they did not understand why Jesus came. They thought he had come to overthrow Rome, to sit on a glorious throne and rule over Jerusalem. The Pharisees wanted an earthly king, and the Zealots wanted a rebellious revolutionary. Jesus was neither. He was fighting a different battle.

Jesus came to deliver mankind from its enslavement to sin, Satan and death. He knew when he came to earth that he would be reviled, but he came anyway. That is the greatest act of love imaginable.

“Christian success” does not come from rising to the top, being the most popular, having the most likes or followers, or sitting at number one on the list. That is how the world defines success. “Christian success” comes from following in the footsteps of our Savior. Although Jesus was God, he became a man and accepted the limitations of human flesh.

He was tempted in every way and was well-acquainted with suffering. He was cursed, denied, spit upon, mocked and condemned. He died the most brutal, humiliating death imaginable for our salvation. The sinless one became sin, crying out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46.) Yes, Jesus was familiar with failure.

But three days after He was buried, he walked out of his tomb, thereby defeating death with its own weapon. That is victory. That is success in its truest form. Sacrificial success.

We serve a paradoxical God, one who says that worldly gain is loss if it costs you your soul. That in foolishness there is wisdom and that in dying we live. That in failure there is redemption. Jesus does not promise us earthly success if we choose to follow him, because earthly success was never his aim. What he does promise us is a future so glorious that it cannot be fully described in human language (1 Cor. 2:9).

Success is not inherently wrong, and achievement is good cause for celebration. But we must remember that if we succeed—at anything—it is only because our abundantly gracious God has allowed us, for His glory. When we let the world define our success instead of Jesus, we fall into idolatry.

Because, at the end of the day, it is not what we do that is of lasting significance, but for whom we do it.

A Message for Misfits

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

Judges 11:1–3, 11

Before he ever came to the plate, Jephthah had three strikes against him.

  • He was an illegitimate child. Strike one.
  • He was the son of a barmaid and a brute. Strike two.
  • He was raised in an atmosphere of hatred and hostility. Strike three.

Nurtured in an overcrowded cage of half-brothers, he was the constant target of verbal put-downs and violent profanity. Putting it mildly, Jephthah wasn’t wanted. He compensated by becoming the meanest kid on the block.

Kicked out of home before he reached young manhood, he took up the lifestyle of a rebel among a tough bunch of thugs that hob-nobbed in a place called Tob. Earning a reputation as the hardest hard-guy, he was elected leader of a gang. They ripped and rammed their way through villages like a pack of wild hyenas. Had they ridden motorcycles, their black leather jackets could have read “The Tob Mob” as they raced over hills, outrunning the law of the land. Read Judges 11:1–3 for yourself. It’s all there. A societal reject, Jephthah was Charles Manson, the Boston Strangler, and Clyde Barrow all wrapped in one explosive body. Having him and his apes drop into the Tob Pharmacy for Saturday night malts was about as comfortable as taking a swim with the Loch Ness monster.

Suddenly, a change occurred. The people of Israel encountered a barrage of hostilities from their not-so-friendly neighbors to the east—the Ammonites. The longer the battle raged against this hateful enemy tribe, the more obvious it became that Israel was against the ropes. Defeat was inevitable. The Jews needed a leader with guts to stand up against the fiery foes from Ammon. Guess who the Israelites thought of? Right! They figured that only a guy with his record would qualify for the job, so they called the man from Tob. Tremblingly, they said:

Come and be our chief that we may fight against the sons of Ammon. . . . and [you may] become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.
(Judges 11:6, 8)

What a deal! Asking Jephthah if he could fight was like asking Al Hirt if he could blow some jazz or A. J. Foyt if he could drive you around the block. That was Jephthah’s day in court. After a brief cat-and-mouse interchange, the mobster signed the dotted line. Predictably, he annihilated the Ammonites in short order and the Tob Evening News rolled off the presses with the headline:

HOODLUM BECOMES HERO—
EX-CON ELECTED JUDGE!

Jephthah the judge. Fellow gangsters had to call him “Your Honor.” What a switch! Jephthah had no rightful claim to such a high calling.

That would have been true—except for one thing: God’s grace. Remember now, God is the One who builds trophies from the scrap pile . . . who draws His clay from under the bridge . . . who makes clean instruments of beauty from the filthy failures of yesteryear.

To underscore this truth, consider Paul’s stunning remark made to a group of unsophisticated Corinthian Christians:

Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.
(1 Corinthians 6:9–11a NIV)

Don’t rush over those last eight words:

And that is what some of you were . . .

Our Father, in great grace, loved us when you and I were Jephthah—a rebel or a drunk or a gossip or a crook or a liar or a brawler or a Pharisee or a playboy or an adulteress or a hypocrite or a do-gooder or a dropout or a drug addict. Looking for sinners, He found us in desperate straits. Lifting us to the level of His much-loved Son, He brought us in, washed our wounds, and changed our direction. All our church-going and hymn-singing and long-praying and committee-sitting and religious-talking will never ease the fact that we were dug from a deep, dark, deadly pit. And may we never forget it. Classic misfits . . . we.

But there is one major difference between Jephthah and us. God chose to revealhis past for everyone to read, while He chose to hide ours so none would ever know what colossal misfits we really are. Talk about grace!

——————————————————————————————————————————

Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

Failure: 3 Things No One Told You About Trying To Succeed

SOURCE:  Joey Papa/Relevant Magazine

Everyone has advice about how to succeed, but there’s a lot we forget to mention.

Everyone wants to be successful. It’s grafted into our DNA to want to achieve, to accomplish and add significance to our lives. Even if it’s hard for you to admit that you want to be successful, take a moment to think about it. You may not want to be the next pop star, but you probably want to be a successful parent, successful at your career and, successful in relationships.

And this can be a good thing, but it doesn’t always look like we think. Here are a few things you don’t always hear about success:

Success Isn’t Always Tangible

On an earthly understanding, success is commonly measured by tangibles—how much money you have, the type of possessions you own or the amount of influence you have on a particular group of people. Somehow we end up measuring success by material things, yet success has nothing to do with money, fame or power. Those “things” have been held by some of the most evil human beings in history and no one is saying they were successful. That’s because success has everything to do with what is unseen.

In a spiritual perspective, success occurs when you’ve stayed true to conviction, made the right choices, even when tempted to do the opposite or remained humble in the face of injustice. This is success. It’s the inner feeling of clarity, authenticity and peace that comes from remaining in love and truth. It’s not what you do that matters but how you do it that measures success or failure.

For example, if you’re at work and you’re given a nominal, boring task to do, you can either do a half-hearted job and get it done or you can take full ownership over it and commit to doing it well. If you take the first approach, your boss may be happy because it can be crossed off the list, but your inner-reward will be minimal (if that). If you take the second approach, chances are you will feel a great sense of accomplishment, confidence and cleanliness because you honored the task, even though it didn’t really seem to have much value.

Failing Is Essential to Success

You must fail in order to succeed. No one succeeds without first experiencing a bunch of failures. If you’ve ever played a sport, trained for a marathon or practiced for a theater performance, you know that it takes lots of time and dedication to perfect the art or sport that you’re participating in. No one shows up one day without any former training and runs a marathon. Failures are simply practice runs for success.

Too often the voices of discouragement and despair can cloud the clarity of vision it takes to truly succeed. One thing I’ve learned through venturing into new waters artistically, spiritually and mentally is to discern the messages that come at me during the process. I’ve become accustomed to tuning out the messages that drag me down, deflate my dreams and remove courage from my bones.

Every time I fail, I tune out the discouragement and self-judgement. I exercise grace and kindness towards myself. I recognize the lessons I need to learn; where I missed it, where I was selfish. This transforms my perspective and rearranges my energy in such a way that I have a clear mind and pure conscious.

Success is for the Humble

The more you force yourself to the front of the line, push yourself to the top, the more you’ll find yourself on the bottom.

Jesus said, “the meek will inherit the earth.” This isn’t just a nice saying or a phrase to put on your wall. It’s a spiritual principle that operates in a real way, with tangible effects. There’s a misconception of successful people that they are the go-getters, that they take the bull by the horns. They run over people and do whatever it takes to make sure they get what they want. While this mindset may increase productivity, revenue and assets, it doesn’t increase success or true value.

In fact, it’s just the opposite. Those who practice humility, being meek, low in heart and open in spirit will gain the greatest, lasting influence in the earth. Why? Because people who are meek, humble and selfless are attractive in spirit. People who operate with humility cause other people to succeed and draw the best out of those in their presence. Not many people are attracted to proud, controlling individuals.

The same spiritual principle is also seen in the understanding that the first will be last and the last will be first. The more you force yourself to the front of the line, push yourself to the top, the more you’ll find yourself on the bottom. Yet, practicing surrender and trusting in the intelligence of God will produce the very things you truly want.

This is true success.

Failure: This is not the time to give up and run from God

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dan Strickland

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:12-14 NLT

Many people begin the Christian life with excitement, expecting that everything will be different immediately! They think that they will not have any desire to walk in the negative patterns they used to enjoy … but that is just not the way it works.

Becoming a Christian means you are forgiven—not perfect.

Receiving Jesus is not a “quick fix” for old habits and their consequences. Change takes time, and we can’t rely on ourselves to make these changes. If we try to transform ourselves, we will always be disappointed. Transformation can only take place as we build our relationship with God by spending quality time with him praying and studying the Bible.

Are you a new Christian and still struggling with old habits and their consequences? Or maybe you have been a Christian a long time but things from your past seem to be pressing in on you.

Perhaps you have tried and tried to overcome, but nothing seems to work. You might feel like a failure. You’ve let yourself, others and God down time and time again

This is not the time to give up and run from God, ashamed and embarrassed.

Instead, run to him.

Ask for his forgiveness and his help. Follow the apostle Paul’s example. He knew he hadn’t achieved perfection, but he put the past behind and pressed on—focusing on becoming and doing all God had called him to. Learn from your past, leave it behind … and press on.

Father, I thank you for continuing to love me, even when I let you down. Forgive me for all those times. Help me to learn from past mistakes, but not to dwell on them. Help me to look ahead and to press on to become all you have designed me to be and to accomplish the purpose of my journey. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Completely Free! A Group Study of Romans 1-8
by Dan Strickland.

Getting To The ROOTS of Failure

SOURCE:  Taken from the work of June Hunt

Causes of Failure

He gets in the way again! Peter, with his impetuous behavior, attempts to interrupt the Father’s plan for the Son. Peter cannot possibly see how the death of Jesus would accomplish anything good or positive. In fact, His death seemed to be the death of the disciples’ dreams.

Previously, Peter had rebuked Jesus for even talking about being crucified. Now in the Garden of Gethsemane, he tries to block Jesus’ arrest, the triggering event that would lead to the Crucifixion, by using violence. With sword in hand, Peter strikes off the right ear of the high priest’s servant. Immediately Jesus picks up the ear and fully restores it.

Obviously Peter didn’t “get it.” He failed to see the big picture—even though Jesus had tried to tell him. But Peter wasn’t listening.

“Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’ ”

(John 18:11)

What Are Rungs on the Ladder of Wrong Thinking?

With Peter or with any of us, wrong assumptions always lead to wrong conclusions. All inventors are well aware of the mockers and scoffers—those who just don’t “get it.” But if our mindset is correct, we won’t be controlled by naysayers. We’ll press forward with God’s perfect plan, even if it may not make sense at the time. Stopping short means missing out on the best part of all … which for Jesus was resurrection!

In 1978 the first successful transatlantic balloon flight was accomplished by the Double Eagle II. It was not the first attempt. In fact, thirteen attempts had been made from 1873 through 1978. What was the difference? Lessons from previous failures!

Success can be defined as the intelligent application of failure. Failure is a fact of life. It can lead to despair—or it can lead to increased efforts with the possibility of success.

Steps to success are usually marked with many failures. That is why your attitude regarding failures will greatly influence your future.

“God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.”

(2 Timothy 1:7)

The result of wrong thinking often manifests itself in fearfulness.

  • Fearful of Ridicule “They’ll make fun of me if I fail.”

—  People laughed at Robert Fulton’s strange, smoking craft chugging down the river, yet “Fulton’s Folly” became the first steamboat in 1807.6

  • Fearful of Inexperience “No one will believe in me.”

—  When the great tenor Caruso first sang for his instructor, he was told that his voice sounded like “wind whistling through the window.”7

  • Fearful of Failure “I told you I would blow it.”

—  Albert Einstein failed his university entrance exams on his first attempt.8

  • Fearful of Inadequacy “I shouldn’t try.… I may not know everything I need to know.”

—  The first car Henry Ford invented and marketed did not have a reverse gear.9

  • Fearful of Change “It’s never been done—it won’t work.”

—  The Wright Brothers first offered their flying machine to the United States government but were not taken seriously. A few years later they closed a contract with the United States Department of War for the first military airplane.10

  • Lacking Confidence “I don’t think I can do it.”

—  Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs.11

  • Lacking Conviction “It really doesn’t matter that much.”

—  Thomas Edison had over 1,000 failures before he found the right combination for the light bulb.12

  • Lacking Perseverance “I can’t run the risk of failure.”

—  R. H. Macy failed seven times in retailing before his New York store was a success.13

  • Lacking Trust in God “I really don’t have what it takes.”

—  When the great pianist Paderewski first chose to study the piano, his music teacher told him his hands were much too small to master the keyboard.14

How Does Faulty Thinking Produce Failure?

He was right in his motives but wrong in his timing. Peter was in an exclusive group of three, along with James and John, who were led by Jesus up a mountain for a glimpse into the heavenly realm.

Suddenly, Jesus was transfigured before them, His face shining like the sun and His clothes becoming white as light. He began talking, not with the trio of disciples, but with Moses and Elijah!

Peter gets busy, concluding that the fulfillment of the Kingdom has come and making preparations in conjunction with its arrival. “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’ ” (Matthew 17:4).

The Father interrupts Peter from a voice in a bright cloud, expressing love and pleasure toward his Son, Jesus, and evoking great fear in the disciples. Jesus touches them and tells them not to be afraid, and when they got up after falling prostrate in fear, they were alone with Jesus.

Obviously, there was “kingdom work” yet to do. Because Peter had faulty thinking, he therefore had faulty conclusions.

Answer the questions below to determine whether you are telling yourself lies about failure …

Faulty Thinking Test

  • Do you think you must avoid the hurt that results from having failed?

Truth: Hurt cannot be avoided in life. It gives opportunity for mental, emotional, and spiritual growth.

  • Do you think taking “chances” almost always leads to calamity?

Truth: Taking chances can lead to opportunity.

  • Do you think it is imperative to do only what is “safe,” that within your comfort zone?

Truth: Your concern for safety should be secondary to following God’s leading, following your heart, and satisfying your desire to grow and learn.

  • Do you think it would be terrible if you made a wrong decision?

Truth: Every wrong decision can teach you something of value and can be a stepping stone to making right decisions.

  • Do you think you must never make a mistake?

Truth: Mistakes are common to everyone.

  • Do you think God will reject you or be angry with you if you fail?

Truth: God knows you will fail and is pleased with your fortitude and persistent acceptance of challenges that stretch your abilities and strengthen your reliance on Him.

  • Do you think failure is an indication that you are stupid or weak?

Truth: Failure is universal, experienced by both the literate and the illiterate, the strong and the weak.

  • Do you think others will think less of you if you fail at something?

Truth: Others value you for your character traits and Christlike attitudes and actions rather than whether or not you fail at something. And remember, they, too, have failed.

  • Do you think it is a bad reflection on Christ when you fail?

Truth: Your failures provide a platform to show others that your security is in Christ, not in your successes.

  • Do you think failure is shameful and sinful?

Truth: Failing does not make you a failure. Failure is sinful only when it is a result of disobedience.

  • Do you think you must plan every action and, thus, avoid loss, pain, or disgrace?

Truth: You cannot control life, but you can trust the sovereignty of God when He allows loss, pain, and even disgrace in your life.

“ ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ ”

(Isaiah 55:8–9)

What Facts Make You a Failure or a Success?

Following a serious failure, what makes one person continue to fail and another to become a success? The answer is twofold: Who is willing to take responsibility for the failure? Who learns the valuable lessons that can come from the failure?

Peter becomes a success because his self-brashness is replaced with a heart of humility. He is able to say to fellow sufferers from his own experience, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).

Success through failure. The same words can be said about Peter’s spiritual counterpart, the apostle Paul. Prideful Paul learned this lesson well: Take responsibility for the wrong and gain a heart of humility. He writes, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

The Apostle Paul

Facts about Paul that could have caused him to see himself as a failure

  • Fact: He labeled himself the worst of sinners.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)

  • Fact: He strongly embraced and actively promoted wrong priorities and values in his young adulthood.

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

  • Fact: His life was filled with disappointments, trials, and hardships.

“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned.” (2 Corinthians 11:24–25)

  • Fact: He did not consider himself to be an eloquent orator.

“I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words.” (1 Corinthians 2:3–4)

  • Fact: His prayers were not always answered according to his desires.

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ ” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9)

  • Fact: He was hindered by an unpleasant bodily ailment.

“It was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.” (Galatians 4:13)

  • Fact: He experienced resentment and rejection.

“After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan.” (Acts 9:23–24)

  • Fact: He was imprisoned and kept in chains for his faith.

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.” (2 Timothy 2:8–9)

Facts about Paul that prevented him from considering himself a failure

  • Fact: He realized that God was the source of his strength.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

  • Fact: He refused to allow circumstances to crush his heart or control his life.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed …” (2 Corinthians 4:8)

  • Fact: He trusted God and accepted his own limited understanding of all of God’s plans and purposes.

“[We are] … perplexed, but not in despair …” (2 Corinthians 4:8)

  • Fact: He knew that God was with him in the midst of tough and trying times.

“[We are] … persecuted, but not abandoned …” (2 Corinthians 4:9)

  • Fact: He understood and fully embraced the fact that Jesus had called him to suffer for the sake of the Gospel.

“[We are] … struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:9)

  • Fact: He knew that things are not always as they appear and that according to God’s standard, he was strongest whenever he appeared to be weakest.

“For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

  • Fact: He had learned from experience and his knowledge of the character of God that his joy was in God, not in his so-called successes.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)

  • Fact: He knew his life was hidden in Christ and that whether he lived or died … whether he was considered a success or a failure, he was loved by God.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

What Is the Primary Cause of Failure?

Cocksure of himself—that’s what he is! Peter proclaims his undying loyalty to Jesus only to betray Him hours later. He then is flabbergasted at his own failure, and the characteristic cocky spirit is replaced with a crushed spirit.

It is amazing how little we know about ourselves. God has to take us through all kinds of failures to reveal the self-focused pride that lies dormant in the corners of our character. The only way we can be of any use to God is to respond with discernment to our disappointments. Discernment leads us to truth—and truth punctures our pride … all for His purpose of molding us to the image of His Son.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

(James 1:2–4)

The following acrostic on PRIDE can help you discern the truth about yourself. Are you …

Preoccupied with the opinions of others?

“They loved praise from men more than praise from God.” (John 12:43)

Refusing wise counsel?

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

Ignoring the power of prayer?

“You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2)

Depending on self-effort?

“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3)

Expecting praise and personal recognition?

“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Root Cause of Wrong Responses to Failure

With absolute confidence he crows, “I would never do that! I would never stoop to that.… I’m stronger than that!” Then the day comes when the very act he said he wouldn’t do, he does. And sadly, not just once. Here is Peter, who stumbles and falls … Peter, who feels the piercing pain of his own failure.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

(Proverbs 16:18)

Can you relate to Peter? Although he was a disciple within the inner circle of Jesus, he suffered self-centered setbacks that devastated him. He could have become paralyzed with despondency and despair, but one of the hallmarks of maturity is to evaluate our mistakes and wrong mindsets and learn invaluable lessons from them. This way, our stumbling stones of failure can become stepping stones of success.

The root cause of an inability to accept failure and to learn from mistakes is a wrong belief system.

Wrong Belief:

“Failure is a sign of personal defeat. I must accomplish my goals and be successful in the eyes of others to feel good about myself.”

Right Belief:

“Failure is God’s way of deepening my dependence on Him. Success is submitting to God’s goal of Christlikeness for my life—regardless of the outcome.”

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28–29)[1]

 

6 A History of Wonderful Inventions (London: Chapman and Hall, 1849), 77–78.

7 Michael Scott, The Great Caruso (New York: Knopf, A division of Random House, 1988), 6.

8 Kendall Haven and Donna Clark, 100 Most Popular Scientists for Young Adults: Biographical Sketches and Professional Paths (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1999), 1163.

9 Nathan Miller, New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America (New York: Scribner, 2003), 178.

10 Fred Charters Kelly, The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Toronto: Courier Dover, 1989), 153–154.

11 Ted Williams, Ted Williams’ Hit List: The Best of the Best Ranks the Best of the Rest (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), 62.

12 Sir John Marks Templeton, Discovering the Laws of Life (New York: Templeton Foundation Press, 1995), 213.

13 Willie Jolley, A Setback is a Setup for a Comeback: Turn you Moments of Doubt and Fear into Times of Triumph (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), 26.

14 Bob Fenster, Well, Duh! Our Stupid World, and Welcome to It (Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2004), 286.

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[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Success through Failure: From Stumbling Stones to Stepping Stones (pp. 10–15). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

How Will I Ever Overcome My Failures?

SOURCE:  Taken from the work of  J. G. Kruis 

Overcoming Sin

     1.  The truth sets us free.

John 8:32. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

  1. By nature we are all slaves to sin, but Jesus sets us free.
    John 8:34–36. Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
  2. A believer can overcome sin because he is a new creature.
    2 Cor. 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
  3. God has given us all we need for life and godliness.

2 Peter 1:3. As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.

  1. God requires you to work out your salvation in every area of life.
    Phil. 2:12. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
  2. God enables you to do so; you need not go it on your own.
    Phil. 2:13. For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
  3. God is able to make all grace abound to you, to enable you to overcome any specific sin.
    2 Cor. 9:8. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
  4. We are being transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
    2 Cor. 3:18. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
  5. You must keep working at breaking sinful habits and developing new and godly ways.
    Eph. 4:22–24. That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
    Col. 3:9–10. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.
  6. Like a runner in a race, keep pressing on until you have gained the victory.
    Phil. 3:12–14.
  7. Don’t keep dwelling on past failures; nor should you get discouraged and give up after you have failed. Hang in there!
    Phil. 3:13–14. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
  8. Get rid of everything which might hinder you. Persevere!
    Heb. 12:1. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
  9. One who is saved by grace must no longer serve sin. Keep working at overcoming it, using your body to serve only the Lord.
    Rom. 6:11–22. (Romans 6 contains much good instruction concerning how a Christian must and can overcome sin through the grace and power of God.)
  10. Don’t be mastered by any sin.
    1 Cor. 6:12. All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
  11. Christ, dwelling in us, enables us to overcome sin.
    Gal. 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
  12. Drunkards, homosexuals, idolaters, and others caught up in wickedness can overcome sin by God’s power and grace.
    1 Cor. 6:11. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
  13. Paul, Titus, and others were set free from the power of sin. God gave them victory through the Holy Spirit.
    Titus 3:3–7.
    Titus 3:5–6. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
  14. Use the infallible Word of God.
    2 Tim. 3:16–17. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
  15. A true Christian will not live in sin.
    1 John 3:6. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
    1 John 3:9. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
  16. Jude mentions three things that are necessary to remain faithful to God.
    Jude 20–21. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

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Kruis, J. G. (1994). Quick scripture reference for counseling (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

 

How God Embraces the Embarrassed

SOURCE:  Paul Maxwell/Desiring God

Whether it’s a laughable underwear-on-stage experience (laughable later), or a deeply unsettling loss of integrity, embarrassment is a besetting quality of human life. It lurks and stalks beneath the surface of our circumstances, waiting to sink its teeth into our every failing and loss — intentional or naive, serious or jovial, public or private, embarrassment is a trained hunter of human failure.

Getting Behind the Blush

As with any concept, it is best to begin with a clear definition. For our purposes, we will define embarrassment this way: The emotional experience of being judged by others, whether rightly or wrongly; perceived or real. This embarrassment has five basic components.

1. Escape

“I want to die.” “I want to fly away.” “I want to disappear.” “I want to stop existing.” “I want to go back in time.”

Naturally. We want to escape the people. Embarrassment is an experience of the reaction of others to our condition or experience.

And it’s nauseating. Our very bodies start running away from us, out of our control. Tears. Blush. Vomit. Embarrassment is an emotional nuclear meltdown — not a fit, but an uncontrollable and convulsive inside-out-ness. The structures that support us begin to fall — our operating system fails from overload, and we just. . . want. . . to. . . ugh. “Get me out of here.”

2. Shame

“I am unacceptable.” “I have defiled myself.” “People now see the worst of me.” “People see me as undesirable, dirty, disgusting.”

When embarrassed, we assume we have elicited the gag reflex in everyone around us. In that moment, we feel like a monstrosity at whom people tilt their heads, from whom parents hide their children’s eyes, whom adults only speak of in morbidly curious judgment. The embarrassed are self-professed psychics, hearing, “I didn’t know you were so creepy, gruesome, strange, icky, hideous, shameful.”

Choose your poison. It’s there. In the moment, in the emotion, embarrassment is laced with fatal doses of shame.

3. Loneliness

“Not only am I not okay. Everyone else is fine.” “I am the only one who would do something this stupid.” “I am the only one who would be this dumb.” The loneliness of embarrassment can take extreme forms. “I am the pure and full embodiment of failure.” “Others fail, but not like me.” “Others make mistakes, but not like an idiot, not like me.”

To be embarrassed is to feel alone. In whatever amount, loneliness is a universal ingredient in the embarrassment cocktail. Stigma. Social exile. Them over there … me over here. No matter the circumstances, in the moment and emotion of embarrassment, we are utterly isolated and distanced, banished from words like “normal,” “everyone,” and “belonging.” Embarrassment revokes our access to the word “us.”

4. Self-Deprecation

“I deserve their scorn.” “I deserve to be laughed at.” “I deserve to be demoted to a lower social caste.” “I hate myself.” “Why did God even make me?”

Self-deprecation is more than shame. It is articulated and pointed. Shame is a blunt weight on our back. Self-hatred is a knife in our own hand. Self-deprecation is also more than loneliness; it is rationalized: “You should be alone. Who would want to associate with you?” Self-deprecation is our natural inclination to answer embarrassment’s “Why?” with a staunch “Because of me — obviously, again — because of me.”

5. Legalism

“I could have prevented this if I had been better.” “I could have stopped this if I had done better.” “I have put myself here.” “It’s all my fault.” “It’s always my fault.”

Embarrassment remembers. It keeps a record of wrongs. When embarrassed, we feel the cutting edge of disapproval from God and neighbor. Embarrassment is the emotional experience of failed earthly justification — of failing to attain “righteousness of my own that comes from the law” (Philippians 3:9). “From the law.” Insert: the righteousness that comes from being wealthy, successful, morally upright, popular, stable, employed, and socially savvy. Now imagine all of the condemnation that can rip you to shreds when you drop a meatball in your lap at a business lunch. “Now there’s no hiding how stupid I am.”

Embracing God in Embarrassment

Embarrassment is an obnoxious suffering. It is not something of which we can repent. Embarrassment is an experience of losing control of one’s self and circumstances. Embarrassment is an emotional and spiritual reality in which it seems like God is either absent, laughing along with the crowd, or expecting us to just move on and get over it already. But God rushes in to offer several unexpected gifts for the embarrassed.

1. Escape

Perhaps surprisingly, God endorses our desire to escape — but he won’t let us escape him (John 10:28–29). The first embarrassing moment in history: Adam believes that God is coming against him as he hides in shame: “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). God’s response? “Good. Run. Get out of here. We don’t want you here. Look at yourself: naked, shameful, sinful.” We expect it. But no. Never. “The Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden” (Genesis 3:23) “lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22).

God says, “Hey, let’s get you out of here. This place isn’t safe. What do you have there? Fig leaves? Here are some leather garments; you’re cold. Come with me.” Why? “Lest he. . . live forever.” Parsed simply: “I won’t let this be your life.” “I won’t let you be inside-out forever.” That feeling of ours is grievous and important to him (Isaiah 51:3).

2. Protection

God is urgently involved in protecting the embarrassed — but he won’t let us run away from hard experiences either. In the moment of embarrassment, let the words of Genesis 3 show us God’s disposition toward the embarrassed: Notlaughing in agreement, but rushing to your aid. “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me” (Psalm 54:4). You want to escape? God is helping you to do just that — but you won’t escape him, and you won’t run away. He will rush into your embarrassment, break you out of hopelessness by strengthening your feeble arms (Colossians 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:3), and stand with you as your honor no matter your circumstances (Psalm 62:7). He does not mock. He does not forsake (Deuteronomy 31:8; Psalm 37:28).

“In your embarrassment, God is not laughing in agreement, but rushing to your aid.”

3. Perspective

A moment of embarrassment is like a moment of severe pain — all of our attention is on the bruise, the sprain, the break, the gash. Most often, we are powerless before embarrassment. It is locomotive, overpowering, controlling. But as we spin into our emotional tornado, God gives us relational grips to reach for. However embarrassed we feel, this moment will not last in the minds of others around us. Remember: embarrassment isn’t about the thing — embarrassment is about our experience of how other people experience us.

So let’s split up the opinion of others into unbelievers and believers. (1) To the unsanctified, the sinful heart is too self-involved to indulge in the downfall of others for long — they “seek their own desire” (Proverbs 18:1), “set their minds on the things of the flesh” (Romans 8:5), and are only bent on their own universe, even to their detriment — they “immediately forget what [they look] like” (James 1:24). And (2), to the sanctified, there is grace (Colossians 4:6), tenderheartedness (Ephesians 4:32), and even protection to be received. People do not have the energy to harbor such sadistic scorn for long. And if they do, it certainly does not reflect the attitude of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:6; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:3–8).

People can be cruel to us, but often not as treacherous as we are to ourselves.

4. Communal Acceptance

Christians are often the first people to have a reason to qualify love, “Yes, God forgives them. . . . but they should be ashamed.” “. . . but let’s be real.” “. . . but they should know better.” “. . . but they should do/be better.” This is a failure to “rid [ourselves] of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from [our] lips” (Colossians 3:8). Embarrassed people already know that they have not made ideal choices or been placed in ideal circumstances. They need Jesus Christ, not a qualified personal Christian opinion (Hebrews 13:20–21).

We should “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19), we “should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:2), and we should “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

The embarrassed need to receive Christ through real flesh and blood people (2 Corinthians 7:6). Because embarrassment is primarily an emotional experience ofother people, then the church, as other people, is in the perfect place to dispel the myth that they are under judgment, shame, or worthy of self-hatred. The church needs to find an “us” with the embarrassed. “Hey, I know you probably have tons of emotions swirling around. . . but this one time I messed up big, and was so embarrassed. Let me tell you my story.” “. . . but my spouse left me as well, and I’m here to talk if you ever want to.” “. . . but by the way, nobody is gossiping about this. We all just love you and hope you’re okay.”

Acceptance “from God” is real, and perhaps helpful long-term. But very often, what we need is acceptance from God in the form of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 15:7). In this way, the people of God combat both loneliness and shame.

5. Words

The last place the embarrassed will go is Scripture. Why would we go to a book that shames us? “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). The embarrassed are not a holy people. Or are they? Where would we fit in Scripture? It’s obvious. Out. Out where? Probably “the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42). Yes, there.

Well, maybe not. Scripture doesn’t cast us out. There are more fitting and redemptive roles to play for the embarrassed. God wrote embarrassment into the script of redemptive history, and therefore the Christian life — it’s part of the plan. For those who have sinned, God gives the words, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). For those who have suffered, “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived’” (Job 3:3).

Okay, so there are words for the embarrassed, but are there any positive words? Yes. Look to the crucified criminal. Publicly displayed, without excuse, exiled, punished, ashamed, naked, utterly embarrassed, interjecting into Jesus’s cry of dereliction, “Remember me” (Luke 23:42). The criminal is “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), who cries “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

Embarrassment, rejection, exile, shame, and loneliness are all real. And so the embarrassed are a people who cry “Why have you forsaken me?” with Jesus, who says to them, “You will be with me” (Luke 23:43), and “Can a woman forget her nursing child. . . ? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15–16). To the embarrassed, Jesus is not just with us. He is one of us. Not embarrassed of us, but standingwith us. He calls us his own.

In moments of embarrassed shame, loneliness, self-hatred, and failure, God gives the embarrassed his very Son (Romans 8:32), protection, perspective, acceptance, and words to say when (not if) embarrassment comes. The Redeemer is not surprised by our embarrassment, and he is not unprepared for it either.

“Jesus is not embarrassed of you, but stands with you as your crucified, humiliated Savior.”

Does God Ever Say, “I Am Disappointed In You?”

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

“I Am Disappointed in You”

Be angry with me, call me all kinds of names, but, please, don’t be disappointed in me.

As a general rule, the older you get, the more oppressive the word.

Disappointing other people

If my wife says, “I am so angry with you.” I can live with that. But if she says, “I’m not angry. I am just disappointed in you,” that is unbearable. I feel like a scolded puppy. My tail goes between my legs, I retreat to the corner, and . . . I feel helpless because I am not sure what I can do to change her opinion. I could ask forgiveness, and she would be quick to forgive, but I would still be left feeling like a disappointment.Forgiveness does not remove disappointment. Maybe I would make vows to do better and spend the rest of the day living out those vows, but it would still be unbearable.

One reason being a disappointment is so hard is that it makes you feel less than—lower than—the person you disappointed. That’s why it might be harder the older we get. Kids already feel like they are not quite in the same category as adults, so they don’t fall very far, but other adults and spouses are peers, and now you have slipped down the ladder into the child category, or that of the family dog.

It is not wrong to be disappointed with someone. The Apostle Paul certainly was disappointed with the churches in Galatia and Corinth (e.g., 1 Cor 3:1). My point is simply that the experience of being a disappointment to someone close to you, especially a peer, is a tough one to shake off.

And, of course, what we find in our relationships with human beings we can typically find in our relationship with the Lord.

Disappointing God

Most people I know, when they think about seeing God face-to-face, would love to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.” But most only hope for this. They are fairly certain that God will say, “You are such a disappointment. Forgiven, but a disappointment.”

Ugh. And how long does it take to unwrap your tail from between your legs in that relationship?

Can you sense how dangerous this is? If I am a disappointment, I turn away until I can somehow be a little more acceptable. In human relationships that means that we hope the urgent matters of daily life will distract the other person from the disappointment and we can soon act like nothing ever happened. But we don’t think that God is so easily distracted or quite as forgetful.

Don’t turn away from God

Since this identifies a common human experience, then we can be certain that Scripture says much about it. Here is just one way the Lord speaks to us about this essential matter.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”(Numbers 6: 22-27)

This is how God deals with disappointing people. And remember that Israel by this time was supremely disappoint-ing. You might rival them in being disappointment-worthy but not top them.

The Lord turns his face toward them and delights in blessing them. In doing this he invites them to turn their face toward him. There are no doghouses in the Kingdom of God.

So when you feel like a disappointment to the Lord, hear his blessing and turn toward him. If you are looking for words to say to him, “thank you” is usually a fine place to start.

Don’t turn away from other people

Now, back to those times we disappoint others. The answer is the same: don’t turn away. They may not be so quick to pronounce an enthusiastic priestly blessing in our direction, but once we realize that disappointment is not a word that our Father uses with us, we might be bolder when we disappoint mere humans.

So instead of turning away from someone who is rightly disappointed with you, imagine going toward the person (probably after you have asked forgiveness), and saying: “I know I disappointed you, and I hate that, so I want to understand your concerns—I want to really hear them and take them seriously—because my relationship with you is important to me.”

Move toward people with humility rather than humiliation. That’s what we are after.

Abortion: How Does God See Me Now?

SOURCE:  Living Free/Kim Ketola

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.” (Romans 5:8-9 NLT)

Abortion has created strife that sometimes may spill over into the church. Those who are rightly outraged about the loss of life that happens with each abortion may not be sensitive to the pain experienced by those who learned the truth too late. Or the double pain known to millions of Christian women because we denied what we knew to be true when we chose abortion against our own beliefs.

Kim admits, “Whether through perceived judgment or my own guilt, abortion made me avoid church.” Many women feel like a second-class citizen in church after abortion—caught in the crossfire of abortion politics and personal guilt and shame.

But God’s ways are not our ways. No matter how others may see us . . . or how we see ourselves . . . Jesus looks at us through eyes of love.

God doesn’t hate us for our weakness and our need. He knows we are frail and need his help.

Jesus can help you consider all the circumstances of your abortion and hold you in love as you think it through with him. Even if he doesn’t love what you did, he never stopped loving you. As you mourned, he mourned too.

Jesus sees us through eyes of love. He loves us so much he died for us while we were still sinners. And no matter what we have done, if we will leave it at the cross and trust Jesus, he will make us right in God’s eyes. Jesus does not condemn. He forgives.

Lord, I do need your help. Help me get past my fears and shame and trust you to walk me through this. . . . Help me reach out for your forgiveness and peace. Thank you for loving me. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Cradle My Heart: Finding God’s LOVE After Abortion by Kim Ketola.

The Right Way to Respond to Failure

SOURCE:   Peter Bregman/Fox News

My wife Eleanor and I were visiting some friends on a Saturday when their nine-year-old daughter, Dana, came home. She was close to tears, barely holding it together.

“Oh sweetie,” her mom said. “What happened at the swim meet?”

Dana is an excellent swimmer. She trains hard, arriving at swim practice by six most mornings and swimming some afternoons as well. And her efforts are rewarded; she often wins her events, scoring points for her swim team. It is clear she is very proud of these wins.

It isn’t like that for all her endeavors. She struggles with some subjects in school, doing extra math homework to keep up with the other kids and getting special help with her reading. But she always works hard.

“I was disqualified,” she told us. She swam the race well, but dove in a fraction of a second before the starting gun went off: a false start.

We were in the foyer of the house and she sat down on the bottom stair of the staircase, her swim bag still on her shoulder, staring into space, almost expressionless.

“Honey,” her dad said, “there are a lot more swim meets in the season. You’ll have other chances to win.”

I told her, “The fact that you left the block prematurely means you were at your edge. You’re trying not to waste a millisecond in hesitation. That’s the right instinct. You misjudged the timing but that’s OK. The more you do this, the better you’ll get at it.”

“Every swimmer on every team has been disqualified at some point,” Eleanor said. “It’s part of the sport.”

“I’m sure your coach will help you practice your starts before the next meet,” her mom said, “and you’ll figure out exactly when to spring off the block so that you don’t waste a second but you don’t dive too early either. You’ll get it.”

Nothing we said seemed to have any impact on her. Nothing changed her expressionless stare. Nothing helped.

Then her grandmother Mimi walked over.

We were all standing over Dana, when Mimi moved through us and sat down next to her. She put her arm around Dana and just sat there quietly. Eventually, Dana leaned her head on Mimi’s shoulder. After a few moments of silence Mimi kissed Dana’s head and said, “I know how hard you work at this, honey. It’s sad to get disqualified.”

At that point, Dana began to cry. Mimi continued to sit there, with her arm around Dana, for several minutes, without saying anything.

Eventually Dana looked up at Mimi, wiped her tears, and said, simply, “Thanks Mimi.” And I thought, every leader, every manager, every team member, should see this.

All of us except Mimi missed what Dana needed.

We tried to make her feel better by helping her see the advantage of failure, putting the defeat in context, teaching her to draw a lesson from it, and motivating her to work harder and get better so it doesn’t happen again.

But she didn’t need any of that. She already knew it. And if she didn’t, she’d figure it out on her own. The thing she needed, the thing she couldn’t give herself, the thing that Mimi reached out and gave her?

Empathy.

She needed to feel that she wasn’t alone, that we all loved her and her failure didn’t change that, She needed to know we understood how she was feeling and we had confidence that she would figure it out.

I wanted every leader, manager, and team member to see that, because the empathetic response to failure is not only the most compassionate, it’s also the most productive.

Empathy communicates trust. And people perform best when they feel trusted.

When I sit with you in your mistake or failure without trying to change anything, I’m letting you know that you’re okay, even when you don’t perform. And, counter-intuitively, feeling okay about yourself — when you fail — makes you feel good enough to get up and try again.

Most of us miss that. Typically, when people fail, we blame them. Or teach them. Or try to make them feel better. All of which, paradoxically, makes them feel worse. It also prompts defensiveness as an act of self-preservation. (If I’m not okay after a failure, I’d better figure out how to frame this thing so it’s not my failure.)

Our intentions are fine; we want the person to feel better, to learn, to avoid the mistake again. We want to protect our teams and our organizations.

But the learning — the avoidance of future failures — only comes once they feel okay about themselves after failing. And that feeling comes from empathy.

Thankfully, the expression of empathy is fairly simple. When someone has made a mistake or slipped up in some way, just listen to them. Don’t interrupt, don’t offer advice, don’t say that it will be all right. And don’t be afraid of silence. Just listen.

And then, after some time, reflect back what you heard them say, what you feel they’re feeling. That’s it.

I said simple, not easy. It’s hard to just listen and reflect back. It’s hard not to give advice or solve a problem. Hard, but worth the effort.

After some time, Dana got up from the stairs, we all had dinner, and then she went to watch some TV.

We were talking in the living room when she came in to say good night.

“How are you feeling?” I asked her.

“OK, I guess.” She shrugged. “I’m still bummed.”

I almost told her not to worry, that it would be OK, that she would feel better in the morning, that there was always the next race, that she had lots of time to practice.

Almost.

“I understand,” I told her. “It’s a bummer.”

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Peter Bregman is a strategic advisor to CEOs and their leadership teams. His latest book is 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done.

10 Tips for Recovery after a Major Loss or Disappointment

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Sometimes life throws curves at us that take the wind from our sail. If we aren’t careful we can allow the injury to haunt us for life; never regaining what we have lost.

  • Have you lost a job recently?
  • Have you had a business failure?
  • Did you suffer from divorce?
  • Has the person you trusted the most hurt you the deepest?

What steps should you take to get back on track after a significant loss?

Here are 10 suggestions to consider during a recovery process:

(Choose the ones that apply to your situation)

Reconnect with God – This is always a wise idea, but it becomes necessity at times like this. Some people grow closer to God during a trial (that’s the best approach). Some, however, allow a trial to distract them from their relationship with God. If that’s your story, be like the prodigal and return to a waiting Father.

Evaluate your life – Use this time to reevaluate the decisions you have made in life and, if appropriate, what got you in the situation you are in today. Are there changes that you need to make? If so, be willing to change. If you did nothing wrong in this case, release yourself from responsibility.

Create some new dreams – Don’t allow past mistakes to keep you from discovering your passions in life. Keep those creative forces going in your mind so you’ll be ready when the next big opportunity comes along.

Call in the advisors – Others can usually see things we cannot see. They approach our life from a different perspective. Give someone you trust, who has your best interest at heart, access to the painful part of your life.

Don’t take your pain and anger out on others – It doesn’t make things better (usually worse) and it hurts people who did nothing to deserve it. Don’t hold your past experiences against others who weren’t even there.

Take a break – Don’t expect to recover immediately. Your struggles probably didn’t start overnight and they will not end overnight. Give yourself time to heal. Rest.

When it’s time, be willing to risk again – Yes, you may get hurt again, but just as life is full of disappointments, it’s also full of joy and discovery. Remember that everyone is not the same and every situation is different. Your next great opportunity may be waiting for your next step of faith.

Don’t let failure or disappointment in life define you – Be defined by God’s love for you and His plan for your life. He has one you know!

Do something – Rest yes, but at some point, just do something to stay busy and occupy your mind. It’s true that the “idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. If you lost your job, find somewhere to volunteer until you find another job. If you lost a relationship, find non-sexual relationships through church or civic activities to keep from being alone.

Get back in the game – Choose your next steps carefully and don’t keep repeating the same mistakes, but at some point it will be time to enjoy life again. Life was not meant to be lived on the sidelines.

God Meets Us in the Ache

SOURCE:  Ransomed Heart/Stasi Eldredge

We women were given a huge capacity and need for relationship.  It is our glory and a beautiful way that we bear the image of God, who enjoys perfect, intimate relationship.

But our glory has been tainted.

Because of human brokenness and sin, there is not one relationship in your life that is not touched at some level by disappointment. There is an undercurrent of sorrow in every woman’s life.

Oftentimes, when I feel this sorrow, this loneliness, I think it is revealing something deeply wrong with me. I think that if I was “doing it right” or if I was all right, then I wouldn’t experience this grief. And yes, like you, I am not all that I am meant to be yet. I am becoming. But when I ache, if I believe the cause rests solely on my failures, it is overwhelming. I must run from it. Hide it. Manage it. Sanctify it. Ignore it. Numb it. Or better yet, kill it! Because when I am awake to it, it hurts. And I can feel bad for feeling bad.

Sound familiar?

The undercurrent of sorrow that we feel is not all our fault. Maybe a part of it is. Maybe God is using it to expose a style of relating that he wants us to repent of. Maybe. But it’s also possible that none of the sorrow we are feeling at a given moment is rooted in our failings.

When we become aware of sadness or disappointment, we do not have to run. Sorrow is one of the realities of life. To be mature women, we have to be awake to the ache. Let it be a doorway for us to walk through to find deeper intimacy with God.

We ask God to meet us—right in the ache.

5 Steps to Recover from a Failure

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

You’ve failed.

It was huge…at least to the people impacted by the mistake. Perhaps you did it on purpose. Maybe it was an accident. You may have stumbled into gradually over time. Bottom line: It was wrong. You did it. No denying it now.

What next?

Here are 5 steps to recover from a failure:

Admit – Be honest…with yourself and others who need to know. Quit hiding from the truth. Stop making excuses. Own up to what you did and take responsibility for your actions. It’s a sign of maturity and few make it past this point. You my have consequences to deal with. don’t run from them.

Repent – Ask God for forgiveness. If you are a believer, He’s already paid your penalty on the cross, but you need to acknowledge your sin to keep the relationship pure. Ask any injured parties for forgiveness. You’re not responsible for their granting of grace, only for your attempt to live at peace with them.

Plan – Create a new path. Consider the right way to do things next time…so you won’t make the same mistake again. Do you need new friends? A new environment? Should you step away from a position for a time? How can you ensure those around you, whose trust

Commit – Commit to your plan. Commit to new accountability. Commit to the people you love. Commit to yourself. Commit to walking a new path and writing a new story.

Grow – Learn from every failure. You do not have to be defined by this season of your life. Move forward, looking back not to feel bad about yourself, but only enough to remind you to never go there again.

You can do it!

God, You Are Soooo Stubborn!

SOURCE: James MacDonald

GOD’S RELENTLESS LOVE

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

—Psalm 23:6

Are you experiencing a season of defeat and discouragement?

At times like these, God can seem far off and distant from your life. But if you are one of His children—if you have turned from your sin and embraced Christ by faith as the only basis for your forgiveness—you have this Psalm 23 promise in your pocket:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

Look at the two key words in this phrase.

Goodness means bounty or blessing. Mercy can also be translated loving-kindnessfavor, or steadfast love. It comes from the Hebrew word hesed, used 246 times in the Old Testament. Half of those occurrences are found in the Book of Psalms.  Hesed was David’s favorite word to describe the attitude of God toward His children.

In Psalm 33:5, David observed, “The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.” In Psalm 86:13, “For great is your steadfast love toward me.” In Psalm 98:3, “He (the Lord) has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness.”

The loving-kindness of God—His goodness and mercy—is eternal. It’s persistent. It’s a stubborn love God has for His children. He won’t turn His back on us. And He won’t give up on us or let us go.

God’s hesed love brings Jonah to mind.

Jonah could run, but he couldn’t hide or get away from God. The Lord used a storm to get Jonah’s attention and a very large fish to transport Jonah back to the shore where he had made his wrong turn. Even the hardship of Jonah’s experience was God’s loving-kindness. He could have wiped out the wayward prophet in a heartbeat. But, determined to show His loving-kindness to the huge city of Nineveh through Jonah, God kept him alive.

Likewise, God is relentless in His pursuit of you.

No matter what choice you make or where you go, He will come after you. God has a plan for your life, and He will go to great lengths to complete the work He has begun (Philippians 1:6).

If you have become a follower of Jesus Christ, God is all over you and your situation. He is pursuing you—relentlessly.

That’s the meaning of the phrase, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.”

It also means your very best days are ahead. As a child of God, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done—your greatest days of usefulness and service to His kingdom can be in the future, followed always by His goodness and mercy!

Failure: God Loves Losers

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Ed Welch/CCEF

Being a Loser and the Freedom to Fail

Two kinds of failure

Our failures are not all of the same type.

“I failed the test. I studied but ended up with an F.”

“I failed the test. I was alone on a business trip and assumed I could resist temptation, but the first thing I did was turn on the porn channel.”

These are two very different failures.

One reveals that we are fallible humans who make mistakes; the other violates the clear commands of the Lord. Ironically, given a choice, many of us would prefer a small moral failure to one in which our blunders are exposed. I’ll leave the more serious matter of failure involving sin for another time, and consider the one that is less serious but feels more pressing.

The category of failure-because-we-are-human is one all of us face. This is the failure you experience when you don’t make the cut for the varsity team and all your friends do, or you don’t get the job, or you lose the church vote for deacon, or a date never calls back.

“Stupid!” “Loser!”

At times like these, we assume that everybody sees that we are losers, and we are persuaded that we are losers.

Bring failures to the Lord

One of the telltale signs of this kind of human failure is that we are slow to bring it before God. Moral failure is different; we know we must do business with the Father. But human failure has independent instincts, or, at least, we assume it is about our reputation before other people rather than our relationship with the Lord.

But the Lord does have something to say about it.

Start by telling him what is going on.

What is it? What failure are you upset about? (“My whole life” doesn’t count. Be more specific).

What are you really saying? Is it something like this: “People think I’m a jerk!” “I have made life more difficult for my family.” “I expected more of myself.”

Anything you need to confess? There is probably no obvious sin if the matter is not a moral failure, but we can always confess our over-interest in personal reputation.

Then listen to Scripture. You’ll find a number of divine responses. Here are just two.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. (James 1:9-10)

Consider how you, as a brother in humble circumstances, have been singled out from the beginning of time to belong to God and, as you throw your lot in with Jesus, you have all of Christ’s inheritance. Your stature, indeed, is quite high.

I appreciate those words, and sometimes they are helpful, but I find more comfort— and some humor—in these:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor.1:26-29)

God loves losers

In other words, God loves losers. He is the one who chooses us to be part of his team. This way we can’t boast that our stellar reputation is a result of our fine work and amazing talents.

The freedom we have in Christ has a few different facets. One is that we are not judged by the world’s standards of success and failure. Instead, we have the freedom to be human, which means that when we fail, and we will every day, we know that Jesus is the head of this new world order, not us, and we hope to one day realize that there are more important matters, such as boasting in what Jesus has done.

How Should We Respond to Those Struggling With Homosexuality?

SOURCE:  RICHIE HUGHES/Charisma Magazine

When my brother—a fifth-generation preacher’s son—came out of the closet, I encountered one of the church’s biggest dilemmas of our time: How should we
respond to those who struggle with homosexuality?

The day was supposed to be the greatest of my life. I was 29, getting married and had arrived at a local eatery to meet my brother, Eddie, and ask him to be my best man. I couldn’t wait to see his reaction when I invited him to be the most important person in my wedding other than my incredible bride-to-be.

His reply changed my life forever. Thankfully he didn’t decline with a “No.” But neither was his answer a hearty, “Oh, yeah! Congratulations, bro!” Instead, my only brother’s reply was a tearful, “Richie … I’m gay.”

What? That definitely wasn’t the response I expected. My thoughts raced: That’s simply not possible! No way! How could a family like ours, so deeply rooted in church, have a member who isn’t following suit, who isn’t living the same lifestyle we’ve always lived?

You see, I’m a fifth-generation ordained minister. In my family, leading churches and doing ministry is a part of our heritage. But in a split second, one of the biggest issues of our time had hit home (literally) for my family and me. This person—my brother—became what many other Christians thought of as our dirty little secret.

Looking back to that moment 10 years ago, it’s easy to see that a lot has changed in the way society views homosexuality. States have legalized gay marriage. It seems that in every election this issue is on the ballot in California and other states, and probably will be until same-sex marriage is fully legalized.

But a decade ago, things were different. Through his series of poor choices, Eddie eventually contracted AIDS. When I learned about his condition, I was confident there would be a medical solution.

This is the 21st century, I thought. Unlike 20 or so years ago, there are medications that help control the virus now. My brother can live a productive life, and all should be great. Right?

It didn’t happen that way for my family.

A Dream Comes True

Fortunately, Eddie was welcomed into the L.A. Dream Center. Matthew Barnett, the center’s pastor, and his team ministered to him in a way he had never seen before. The Dream Center staff loved him, celebrated his creativity and didn’t judge him. My brother experienced the love of Jesus and, as a result, accepted His grace and forgiveness.

I’ll never forget his phone calls. He’d say: “Richie, God is so awesome. He doesn’t care what I’ve done. He loves me just the way I am.”

You see, it took a church—a group of Christians who loved Eddie just the way he was—to reach him for Jesus. The Dream Center team did not tell him: “Clean yourself up. Stop doing this and never say that or go there again, and we might let you come to our church.”

No, they said: “Come as you are. You are welcomed, loved and celebrated here.” My brother saw Christ in the people of that church. But I don’t think he would have seen Him at every church. (Would he have seen Him at yours?)

Church Attitudes 

Because my family had never discussed AIDS or thought it would touch us directly, and because I’d never been part of a small group at church where it was addressed, I was totally unequipped to deal with it.

How about you? Would you be ready for it? How about your church? Is homosexuality discussed openly? Most churches overlook it or ignore it. Worse, they are afraid to make an effort to understand how we should love others as God has commanded.

Wouldn’t God want us to pursue the gay community like we would any other people group? Wouldn’t He want us to go after them for Jesus with the same tenacity we pursue the family units we perceive are perfectly intact and capable of raising our churches’ monthly giving?

We should lead the way in welcoming gay attendees into the faith. We should assist them in their journey with God and in pursuing Him more deeply.

During my time as the executive pastor of Free Chapel in Orange Co., Calif., I vividly remember the debates and friction caused by Proposition 8 (the state’s same-sex marriage amendment). Tension in and out of the churches in California was at an all-time high.

Our strategy at Free Chapel for diffusing the tension was to invite and welcome homosexuals into our church body. Many ministries joined together and strategized on how to reach out to this community in love, while others regretfully chose the other path of exclusion.

This issue and so many others can be summed up like this: Until something attacks your family, it isn’t likely to be at the forefront of your concerns. But when it does, then it becomes real in your life, and your opinion about it changes.

How Did Our Story End?

My family lived through this HIV attack on my brother. We watched an incredibly talented and intelligent young man lose the physical battle. My brother passed away as a result of HIV at age 28.

My perspective toward the gay community was changed by my undying love for my brother. His life and struggles taught me to love in ways I never knew before.

Do I have any doubt about his eternity? No. One choice secured his eternity in Christ and removed past transgressions, just like it has for me—the guy who has just written a Christian inspirational book, who blogs and who stands in the pulpit of a great church on Sundays.

God doesn’t play favorites, and we can’t earn His favor with our good deeds. Since God is “no respecter of persons” (see Acts 10:34-35), my brother and I will one day reunite with my sister, who also passed away at much too early an age. My brother was gloriously saved, and through his life we’ve learned more about the Father’s love.

I have so much respect for the way Eddie lived his final months just waiting to meet his Savior face to face. He lived in almost total seclusion his last few months. It was his way of resisting the temptations that were on the other side of his apartment door. His flesh wasn’t strong enough to be out in public without wanting to participate in some of the things that took his life, so he stayed indoors and protected his eternity. How many of us could do the same to avoid our area of temptation?

What We Must Do

Chances are, you or someone close to you has a loved one who is living a homosexual life. God wants you to love them unconditionally. Here are three simple ways we all can do this.

1. Show them Jesus. Please love them, welcome them and minister to them. A church and its people “loved” my brother back into a relationship with Jesus that ultimately secured his destiny into heaven!

2. Get real about sin. Let’s realize that we all have a natural inclination to certain things that challenge our walk with God. On the sin scale, is homosexual fornication different than heterosexual fornication? No. Yet do we condone heterosexual fornication more readily than homosexual fornication? I would say most of us do. Sin is sin, wrong is wrong, and any sin breaks God’s heart.

3. Pour on the grace. Make no mistake; we are to follow the Bible in its entirety. The instruction manual is clear, and we are to resist all temptations. But we all fall from time to time (see 1 John 2:1-2). Even though Peter denied Christ three times (and yes, he walked on water with Jesus), he was not disqualified from a wonderful purpose. It was Peter who was used to preach on the day of Pentecost. God gave him a place to fit in.

My plea to the body of Christ is before you judge or form an opinion, before you shun or disqualify one of God’s own children, think about this: Where would this person fit in to Jesus’ group?

I’ve served as a church leader at many churches and heard every reason for why “We can’t let this or that happen, pastor!” But I know this as Eddie’s brother: If we had created a place for him to serve, to use his gifts and talents, and to be celebrated, he might still be with us today. Just maybe part of God’s plan for my brother was to open our eyes to his dilemma.

When looking at the gay and lesbian community, there are many factors that churches and organizations should research and understand. But when it’s all said and done, I hope our conclusion is one of love, compassion and an attempt to show Jesus to any and all who are outside the body of Christ, for any reason.

We must go after the Eddies of the world for Jesus. In doing so I believe we can make a difference to a community of people—and make them God’s people.


Richie Hughes is an agent/manager for authors and music artists, and an in-demand speaker for churches and businesses. He is the former executive pastor of Free Chapel church, pastored by Jentezen Franklin. His latest book, Start Here, Go Anywhere, released in August. For more information, visit richiehughes.org.

10 Words to RECOVER from a Broken Dream

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Have you ever lost your way?  Are there any dreams you’ve given up on? Would you like to begin again?

Here are 10 words of hope to help you recover from a broken dream:

Recharge – Recharge your drained batteries. Read a good book, hang out with someone positive, or attend a conference. Find the way you gain energy.

Rest – Struggles drain us personally. Sometimes we can’t continue until we have an extended period of downtime. You may need a sabbatical.

Reward – Reward yourself for small achievements. You may just need one win to spur you to greater things.

Re-energize – As strange as it sounds, I find exercising to be helpful when I need more energy.

Resist – Push through the pain and resist the temptation to quit. You’ll be surprised how resilient you are if quitting is not an option.

Renew – Renew your passion for the vision you once believed in. It could be the vision of the person you intend to be.

Restart – Invite some change, begin something new or try a different approach. It’s okay to do something completely new!

Reclaim – You had a dream. You believed in it. It had potential. Perhaps you simply need to reclaim what you already had.

Rejoice – Sometimes you need to throw a party…even before you realize the victory. A celebration may give you the motivation to try again.

Remind – People follow a leader. Remind others of their role in achieving their individual dream. Spurring another to victory will energize you.

Here’s the plan:

  • Pick the one of these you feel you need the most, write it on an index card, then place it somewhere you’ll see often.
  • Invite a friend to hold you accountable.
  • Share your story with others in an effort to help another recover.

It’s time. Move forward.

Slipping Back? Seek Help!!

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Bad News/Good News

Do you sometimes find it hard to manage your thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, or emotions?

Do you persist in a destructive habit even though you know you are hurting yourself or those you love?

Do you have patterns or defects you want to correct, but find it difficult to do so?

On New Year’s or your birthday, as you reflect on your life, do you think of some areas of your life that you want to improve or even remove over the next year?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are not alone.

In fact, if you answered no to all of them, you are either lying or in denial, as none of us are perfect in any, let alone every area of life.

Whether we know it or not, we have all operated in a self-destruct mode at some time in our lives. For some of us it’s been this way most of our adult lives. Perhaps you have tried to do right … tried to make some change. For a while, things may have improved. Then you find yourself slipping back to your old frustrating habits or patterns.

Well, what do you want first, the bad news or the good news?

Myself, I like the bad news first, so here it is.

You can’t make these kinds of changes by yourself. Unfortunately, you are going to have to rely on someone else.

Now for the good news: needing someone else’s help is OK because you couldn’t change by yourself and you don’t have to change by yourself.

God is standing by to help you. He is inviting, even imploring you to turn your problems over to Him. He wants you to know they are not person-sized problems … they are God-sized problems. He loves you, wants to save and ultimately sanctify you. He has the power to overcome anything you are and any struggle you can imagine. But more than wanting to, He is so capable. He has the ultimate power and strategy to make your change happen.

Unfortunately, our enemy, Satan, wants to trick us. His lies say we don’t need God, that we really can change on our own, or that if we really need assistance, the world will help us or will do it for us. Our own innate nature, which is selfish and me-centered, leans toward trusting only self and doing it all under “my own power.” Both of these strategies leave out God and only lead to a slow and tortuous inner death.

Today, take the beginning steps to overcome any destructive pattern in your life: admit you have the problem; admit you cannot correct the problem by yourself; tell God you are sorry for what you have been doing and that you truly want to change. Then trust Him to help you. Seek guidance about how to incorporate Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Bible into your everyday decision-making.

You didn’t get this way overnight, so life will not change overnight. But you can start developing the skills and disciplines to start moving in the right direction. God will be with you throughout the process.  Bringing God into your change process is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Heavenly Father and Ultimate Healer, Sometimes I feel so alone and helpless. Please bring Your Holy Word to my mind at those times. Help me remember that You are always with me, and that with You, all things are possible. Your instruction in the Holy Bible is so powerful … it can actually renew my mind and set me free. Help me to apply Your teachings and trust Your promises, instead of trusting my understanding and self-made instruction book. I pray this in the name of the One You sent who is the Good News, Jesus Christ; AMEN!

The Truth

I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

Psalm 16:8

With Him, all things are possible. 

Philippians 4:13

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

Don’t Look Back

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“Abraham had faith and obeyed God. He was told to go to the land that God had said would be his, and he left for a country he had never seen. Because Abraham had faith, he lived as a stranger in the promised land. He lived there in a tent, and so did Isaac and Jacob, who were later given the same promise. Abraham did this, because he was waiting for the eternal city that God had planned and built.” Hebrews 11:8-10 CEV

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT

God called Abraham to leave everything that was familiar to him and enter a world of the unknown.

Abraham obeyed without hesitation.  He set out, leaving relatives and friends, leaving the security of his home, leaving his culture and religion . . .… and followed God.

And he didn’t look back.

Abraham could have spent his days complaining or grieving over all he had left behind. He could have rebelled against being taken out of his comfort zone. But he didn’t. Why? He believed God. He believed God’s promises. And he set his eyes on “the eternal city that God had planned and built.”

The apostle Paul knew God wasn’t finished with him yet. He had made many mistakes in the past, but he forgot the past and looked forward to what lay ahead, pressing on to the eternal prize. 

He didn’t look back.

Is God calling you out of your comfort zone? Or maybe you have already stepped out of your comfort zone but really want to do an “about face.”

In every situation we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. If we look back and dwell on what was, we can’t be effective in the here and now. We need to focus on what God is calling us to do today and press on to what he has promised us for tomorrow.

Father, help me to put the past behind and focus on what you want me to do today. Help me to be willing to step out of my comfort zone and not look back. In Jesus’ name . . . …

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Godly Heroes: A Small Group Study of Hebrews 11
 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Finding Hope in the Midst of Failure

SOURCE:  Taken from a book by Ed Hindson

The first key to growing through failure is realizing that God is greater than your mistakes.

Second, failure is a universal part of being human.

God wants us to learn from failure. We especially need to learn how not to make the same mistake again. We need to face our weaknesses. Whatever can be changed needs to be changed; wherever we can improve, we need to improve.

If you cannot succeed in a certain area of life, it may very well be that it’s not the will of God for you to pursue that area. You might love to play football, but if the doors aren’t opening for you to play professionally, then most likely that’s not God’s calling for your life. You may enjoy singing, but perhaps your voice isn’t of the quality that’s necessary to be a recording artist. If you aren’t achieving the goals you’d like to reach, that doesn’t mean you need to feel like a failure. It just means that God intends for you to succeed elsewhere.

Don’t let some initial failure cause you to go away discouraged, angry, and upset, or you will never accomplish what you could have had you just kept trying.

What Is Your Definition of Success?

In order to address the problem of failure, we have to start with a question about success. Does God really want us to be successful? There are some pious believers who say, “Oh, the Lord really doesn’t intend for us to be successful. We can be failures to the glory of God. The more everything goes wrong, the more spiritual we can become.” Then there are those who are bent on success at any cost. Their attitude is, “Do whatever you have to do to succeed, whether it’s biblical or not. After all,” they rationalize, “God wants us to be successful. He doesn’t need any more failures.”

But how does God’s Word define success?

Read Joshua 1:8: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” By this definition, success is doing the will of God. We may think that certain things we do will make God happy with us, but that’s not the way it works. Everything we do for God needs to be done according to the Word of God in order for it to be done in the will of God.

By some standards, Abraham was a total failure. Leaving Ur, the greatest city of his day, he went out to the middle of nowhere to the land of Canaan and there lived and died in obscurity. Yet he is one of the most illustrious men who ever lived. Moses led the slaves of Israel out of Egypt into a wilderness and never entered the Promised Land. He died a failure by modern standards, yet he is one of the greatest men God ever used. Christ died on a cross, initially appearing to be a failure, and yet by His death He won us an eternal victory. For in that death, He atoned for the sins of mankind.

Jesus talked about failure and success in the story of the successful Pharisee and the sinful publican, both of whom went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9–14). The Pharisee’s prayer was boastful—unlike others, he had never let God down. By contrast, the publican stood afar off and bowed his head in humility and prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Commenting on this incident, Jesus said, “I tell you that this man [publican] rather than the other [Pharisee], went home justified before God.” The man who appeared to be successful was a spiritual failure. The one who appeared to be a failure was the one who was truly successful. Humility, not ability, is the only true success before God.

When people fail, they usually do one of two things.

Either they confess their failure, repent of it, and get right with God, or they go around making excuses for their failure. Those who confess get back on track and ultimately turn their failure into success. The latter never honestly face their failure. They never solve the problems that led to it, and their lives never get turned around. God wants us not only to repent and erase our failure; He wants us to go on and find real success in serving Him.

The Failure Factor

Understanding Failure Orientation
Failure orientation is that self-perception found in some people that limits not only their self-confidence, but even their ability to trust God as all-sufficient Lord. Individuals with a failure orientation are haunted by a sense of failure, which comes from one of two sources:

1. How we think we appear to others. If we are prone to a failure orientation, we tend to develop “ears” for negative feedback from others. Blocking out or downplaying positive feedback, the failure orientation makes us morbidly sensitive to any negative response we’re getting from others. Unfortunately, we tend to limit the feedback we receive—thereby limiting whatever useful information we might glean from the comments of others. We need feedback from others to help us develop the foundation stones of our value system, self-concept, and understanding of behavior.

Sometimes individuals with a failure orientation have trouble distinguishing between negative feedback directed at them personally and negative feedback simply directed at their behavior. It is important to be able to distinguish between the two in interpreting feedback. “Failure” that may come in the form of a negative response to one’s behavior is usually short-lived and may be overcome. Such “failure” should not be mistaken for a negative response to one’s own person or self-integrity.

As Christians, we may fail, but we are not failures. No matter what others choose to think of us, we are “more than conquerors” through Jesus Christ, who loves us (see Romans 8:37). From time to time, others may praise or ridicule us, but we must never lose our true identity and sense of purpose in the quicksand of struggling to prove ourselves acceptable to others. Scripture describes clearly how we should envision our efforts as we strive to achieve our goals in this life: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.… It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23–24 NASB).

2. How we view ourselves. Frequently, people with a failure orientation have an artificially high, unrealistic, or even perfectionistic set of expectations for themselves. When asked to rate their accomplishments in almost any area on a scale from one to ten, such persons inevitably rate themselves at five or worse. They rate themselves harshly, even when by all objective standards their performance is far above average. These individuals tend to categorically classify themselves as total successes or total failures. They have an “either-or” mentality when viewing their own accomplishments. They see their output as fully acceptable or totally worthless—more often the latter.

Such a sense of failure often paralyzes initiative. These individuals become cautious, diffident, unwilling to take risks their own judgment tells them are perfectly acceptable. Such persons need a comparison group of other individuals who are at a roughly equivalent skill and attribute level with whom they can identify and derive a sense of belonging without either being intimidated or bored.

Overcoming Failure Orientation
How can we overcome failure orientation? Here are some suggestions:

1. Fully analyze and understand our own failure-prone thinking. Analyzing the negative thinking and feelings of failure within us can help in identifying the various areas or aspects of life in which they appear. We need to try to delineate these areas as specifically as possible and look for hidden irrational ideas or unbiblical beliefs that serve to undermine our sense of God-given worth.

Usually we can trace our failure orientation back to various setbacks and misconceptions coming from ideas about ourselves, our friends, job, parents, brothers and sisters, church, or school. Rather than perceiving the world through our mind’s “failure filter,” we need to analyze and approach situations from a biblical perspective. One way to do this is to write down every irrational or unbiblical idea we can pinpoint in our thoughts. Then match it with a passage of Scripture that refutes it.

2. Choose goals and objectives that will improve our self-concept. It is advisable to begin with an area in which we have a reasonable amount of self-confidence. A success-oriented self-concept is contagious within our own personality. When we are able to establish goals and begin to reach them, the belief that “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me” begins to take on genuine reality in our own experience. From one area of success, this attitude of confident capability will snowball into other personal and professional areas of our lives.

3. Break the objectives down into bite-sized components. Once we have begun to take on an objective, it is necessary to approach that goal through a series of small steps. No one can jump from the ground onto the roof of a house, but ten or 12 small steps on a ladder will enable us to get there. By breaking the goal down into a series of smaller bite-sized behaviors and objectives, we simplify our task and heighten our chances for success. These smaller objectives should be undertaken in logical sequence, moving from shortest to longest or easiest to hardest. Here, the wise and thoughtful counsel of a spiritually mature person is invaluable, whether we need advice or just encouragement.

4. Implement a plan of action. This is the trial-and-error step. It will involve developing persistence above all else. It will involve the discipline to be well prepared for a task, and sensitivity to remain teachable and flexible. A change in a personal failure orientation of a longstanding nature won’t happen overnight. Many times, in fact, we will find ourselves taking two steps forward and one step back, but time is on our side, and the outcome is guaranteed. We can be confident, that “he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Turn Your Failure into Success
Many people never overcome their failures because they never really forgive themselves for failing. They continue to punish themselves with self-inflicted guilt rather than moving beyond failure to success.

1. To fail is to be human. All human beings fail. God is fully aware of our limitations: “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14 NKJV). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). True success is not avoiding failure, but learning what to do with it.

2. To fail is not be a failure. Studies show that the most successful people often fail. For example, Babe Ruth not only set the record in his day for home runs in a single baseball season—he led the league in strikeouts, as well. However, that didn’t make him a failure. Many Christians who have achieved a number of successes are quick to call themselves failures when they suffer a few strikeouts in life.

3. No one is ever a failure until he stops trying. It is better to attempt much and occasionally fail than to attempt nothing and achieve it. No one learns the limits of his ability until he has reached the point of total failure. Thomas Edison tried over 5,000 different types of light-bulb filaments without success before finding one that would work. His willingness to endure many failures without branding himself a failure gave us the electric light.

4. Failure is never final as long as we get up one more time than we fall down. Fear is much more damaging than failure. If you’ve failed, admit it and start over. Forgive yourself and learn to forgive others. Don’t be controlled by what has happened to you, but rather be motivated by where you are trying to go. Focus on your goals, not your failures. Move ahead with determination, for nothing worthwhile is accomplished without some risk. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). God has given you certain gifts and abilities to serve Him. You may not be able to do everything, but you can do something. Go and do it to His glory!

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Hindson, E. E. (1999). God is There in the Tough Times (62–68). Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers.

Defeating The Fear Of Failure

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Traci Mullins

Those who never take risks never experience the fullness of God’s power and mercy.

I returned the receiver gently to its cradle and felt the smile begin. The kind that starts way down in your heart and works its way up to your face. The deep, contented smile that comes after a nagging question has been resolved.

The call had finally come, bearing the good news that I had hoped for for weeks. I got the job.

The days ahead were electric with excitement and activity as I planned for the big move and the many goodbyes. And then it began to nag at me. That old, familiar feeling. It worried me, and finally tormented me. That deflating sense of dread. The fear of failure.

My future employers were impressed with me. I’d convinced them that I was perfect for the job. They believed in me professionally and already seemed to love me personally. And that brought joy. But the nagging inner voice was beginning to convince me, “You just have them fooled. You’re really not as great as you’ve led them to believe. Just wait till you’ve been there a few weeks; then they’ll see that you can’t really cut it, that you’re a fake.”

My fear of failure had soon sapped me of all my excitement, joy, and hope about the future. As I drove the 1,200 miles down the Pacific Coast toward my new beginning, my nagging fear stole from me the gift of happy anticipation God had wanted me to enjoy.

The fear I experienced that November is a common one. In 1978 two psychologists at Georgia State University gave it a name: the “Impostor Phenomenon.” Those who suffer from this phenomenon believe that they don’t really deserve their successes; they’re phonies who have somehow “gotten away with it.” And because they dread being exposed as fakes, they fear any potential failure that might bring an imaginary house of cards tumbling down around them.1

At the root of the fear of failure is the fear of rejection by others, and of our own weaknesses. The wise king Solomon understood the danger of this psychological trap: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Prov. 29:25). A measuring stick for success that is anything other than the unchanging approval of God—who is for us—is bound to bring us up short.

The Apostle Paul’s perspective on failure would look absurd alongside the advice on the “self-help” shelf at your local bookstore. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul actually boasts about his weaknesses. No Impostor Phenomenon for him. He had no fear of failure because he had no fear of his potential to fail. He could accept his inevitable weaknesses because he understood that God’s grace had already covered them all. In fact, Paul’s weaknesses were the very channels through which the power of Christ could be manifested in his life.

TOWARD A NEW VIEW OF GOD

Paul could live at peace with himself and resist the fear of man only because he had a clear understanding of where he stood with God. He was so sure of God’s love for him and God’s willingness to work in his life, regardless of his imperfections, that he not only was liberated from his fear of man, but he could glory in his humanity. ” . . . I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,” he said, “so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Most of us are in desperate need of Paul’s view of himself in relationship to God. Failure brings to the surface our deepest concepts of God, and too often we perceive Him as a critical parent, a punitive master, or a high and holy dictator, far removed in the heavens. But the Bible tells us that He is “a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Neh. 9:17). In order to be liberated from our fear of failure, we need to see it from God’s perspective.

God’s VIEW OF FAILURE

He expects it. Our failures may sometimes be surprising to others, even to ourselves; but they never are to God. Psalm 103:14 says, “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”Hebrews 4:15 tells us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way . . ..” God views us realistically. He knows what to expect.

He forgives it. God does not deal with us according to our sins or reward us according to our failures (Ps. 103:10). Isaiah 30:18 says, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion . . ..” God follows His own rule to forgive “seventy times seven” (Mt. 18:22). In the same way that Christ forgave the Apostle Peter’s repeated failures, He will forgive ours.

He uses it. God’s grace not only covers our failures, it transforms them into distinctive points of power and ministry.2 The lessons we learn through failure have value to others as well as to ourselves.

The story of Jonah is a classic example of how God deals with our failures. When Jonah failed to obey God’s call on his life he found himself vomited on the beach after three miserable days and nights in the belly of a fish. Talk about feeling like a failure! Though God had spared his life, Jonah probably doubted he could ever be used by God again.

But “then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you'” (Jon. 3:1–2). In spite of his dismal failure the first time around, God still wanted to use Jonah. When he obeyed the second time, 120,000 lost people turned to the Lord. God not only used Jonah in spite of his failure, He used his failure to proclaim to future generations His great mercy in response to sin.

He sees past it. God is simply not disillusioned by our failures. He saw Jonah as a useful servant even after he’d rebelled. He honored Samson’s final prayer for strength in spite of the man’s utter disregard for God’s claim upon his life.

The great “faith hall of fame” in Hebrews 11 lists along with Samson some more of the most unlikely heroes of the faith. Moses failed before he even started his appointed ministry by killing a man and trying to cover it up. Noah abused alcohol in a most pitiful way. Rahab was a harlot. David was a murderer, an adulterer, and a schemer; yet God chose to bring His own Son through the lineage of Bathsheba and her son Solomon. Our failures have consequences, but our God is an expert at creating purpose out of chaos, beauty out of ashes.

He sees its value. God knows that apart from failure we would have little need for His forgiveness, His communion, or His help. He doesn’t like failure, but He knows it is the greatest teacher. He even allows Himself to look like a failure in order to teach us lessons that can be learned in no other way.

God allowed Himself to appear like a failure to me once. I had followed His clear leading into a job that seemed to promise deep purpose, great joy, and extensive ministry. Within a matter of weeks all I could see was destruction, deceit, and despair. I felt devastated and horribly disappointed with God. I had obeyed Him, sacrificed for Him, believed Him—and He had let me down.

For weeks I mourned my fate and hurled accusations at God. I waited impatiently for Him to “make good” on His part of the bargain. It wasn’t until the fight had gone out of me months later that I was quiet enough to hear Him ask, “Why do you love Me? For what I do or don’t do, or for who I am?” And finally, looking out at the calm blue sea, the inner storm ceased. God had brought me full circle in my commitment to Him—from a head knowledge of His character to a heart knowledge of His Person. And I was able to respond, as Oswald Chambers did, “My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace, nor even blessing, but Himself, my God.”

God wants to test our commitment and teach us how to depend on Him—even at the risk of looking like a failure. He did it on the shore of the Red Sea, leaving His people trapped between a hostile army and deep water until Moses’ faith in Him alone parted the wet barrier to freedom. He did it on Good Friday, the greatest “failure” of all, in order to make us dependent on His sacrifice alone for the propitiation of our sins. Then He gave us Easter.

Failure is a great teacher. God uses it as a divine instrument to refine us and revive our relationship with Himself.

LIVING COURAGEOUSLY

Assuming we want to glean from our failures—to “fail forward”—where do we begin? How can we press on, live courageously, and win the prize God promises?

By being realistic and responsible. Many of us get caught in the trap of expecting even more of ourselves than God does. Because God sees us as we really are—beings with the potential to fail—we need not expect perfection from ourselves. The more realistic we are about the inevitability of our failures, the more responsible we will be about them when they occur. Failure in itself is not a villain. It becomes one only when we choose to ignore it or refuse to learn from it.

By faith. Faith is not a demonstration of fearlessness but of obedience. It is not a struggle to believe but an act of obedience to God’s proven love.

Numbers 13 and 14 tells of two men who knew how to live by such faith. Joshua and Caleb were two of the twelve men Moses sent to spy out the land of Canaan. When the spies returned from the mission, ten of them brought a bad report about a choice piece of property, Hebron: “‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size'” (Num. 13:32).

The ten spies’ fears were natural; the descendants of Anak were formidable opponents. But Joshua and Caleb had a “different spirit” (Num. 14:24), a spirit of faith in a God who had proven Himself time and again during the Israelites’ journey from Egypt. They challenged the people’s fear and believed in the Lord: “‘If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up  . . .'” (Num. 14:8–9).

Joshua and Caleb had the faith to see the giant sons of Anak as prey while the rest of the people saw themselves as “grasshoppers” and the giants as overwhelming adversaries. God gave His faithless people over to their own fears and allowed only His servants Joshua and Caleb to enter the promised land.

Any time we encounter a “Hebron” in our own lives, there will be giants there. Yet we need not calculate their strength because God is with us. Too many of us would rather kick around in the wilderness than take on the giants in order to possess the land. God puts us outside the fortresses of Hebron to test our faith in Him who is able to make us giant-eaters.

By giving up the false security in failure. Pressing on in the face of potential failure takes guts. It’s often much easier to live with the only true failure—never trying—because staying where we are is familiar and non-threatening. But the hitch in that kind of logic is that stagnant living gives us only asense of security. In his research on the “survivor personality,” Al Siebert points out an interesting paradox: People who stretch themselves and risk failure in order to reach their potential survive better than people whose main concern is safety and security. Those whose fear of risk and loss prevents them from taking new actions are easily threatened. They fear loss and founder when dealing with the unknown.3

Risking potential failure can be scary. But living in the failure of fear is tragic.

By spiritual warfare. A friend of mine once said to a group of women, “If Satan can make you feel inadequate in any area, he has kept you from being productive, and certainly he has kept you from enjoying yourself and liking life and experiencing victory.” Satan is our accuser, and his favorite hiding place is on the battleground of our souls, where we choose between fearful and courageous living.

Ephesians 6 tells us that the only way to stand firm against the schemes of the Devil is to put on the full armor of God. Our greatest weapon against him is God’s Word, the “sword of the Spirit.”

When I meet the one who taunts me with the threat, “You’re bound to fail,” I try to remember the Word God has given me to battle him: “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God” (2 Cor. 3:4–5).

When my Adversary does succeed in knocking me down I try to remember the battle isn’t over:

But as for me, I watch for the LORD,

I wait in hope for God my Savior;

my God will hear me.

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!

Though I have fallen, I will rise.

Though I sit in darkness,

the LORD will be my light.

—Mic. 7:7–8

By keeping the ultimate goal in mint and refusing false yardsticks of success. Romans 8:29 tells us the purpose, prize, and goal of our lives: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son . . ..” The “good” in verse 28 that all things work together for is the Christlikeness that comes from God’s transforming power in our lives. Our “success” as children of God is measured by how much we yield to His work in us throughout our days on earth.

God does not judge us according to the superficial standards of the world. He doesn’t really care how talented or admired we are, or how much we have in our bank accounts. He has set before us the ultimate prize of Christlikeness, and anything that moves us closer to that prize—including the lessons we learn through failure—brings Him pleasure and glory.

By living in today. Christlikeness is obviously not something to be attained overnight—or even fully in a lifetime. Hannah Whitall Smith points out: that failure need not discourage us because God calls us not to a state but to a walk. “Sanctification,” she writes, “is not a thing to be picked up at a certain stage of our experience, and forever possessed, but it is a life to be lived day by day, and hour by hour.”4

The Apostle Paul had this long-range perspective, and it helped him to milk each day, each experience, of all it could teach him about becoming like Christ. “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13–14). Hope in the future, Christ’s blood in the past, obedient life in the present. Paul knew the secret of courageous living.

THE BLESSING OF FAILURE

Have you ever thought of what life would be like without failure? What you would be like if you had never failed?

Failure refines and teaches us in ways that success cannot. It brings us to God for forgiveness, mercy, and new power to re-enter the battlefield. It sensitizes us to others and humbles us for the real call of God on our lives: servanthood. And it causes us to put all our confidence in Christ, the One who began the ultimate success in us and will perfect it until He comes again.

Notes

1. Joan C. Harvey with Cynthia Katz, If I’m So Successful, Why do I Feel Like a Fake? (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1985), pp. 4, 15.

2. Ted Roberts, Falling Forward (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1984), p. 36.

3. Al Siebert, “The Surviving Personality,” Northwest Magazine, January 27, 1980.

4. Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (Waco, TX: Word, 1985), p. 82.

Jesus doesn’t condemn us when we sin

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Roy Borges

Go, and Sin No More

As I lie in my bunk listening to my radio, Rebecca St. James croons, “Go, and sin no more.” The words vibrate off the four walls of my cell. If only I could erase the past and begin again.

The Bible tells a story of a nameless woman whom the scribes and Pharisees dragged before Jesus (Jn. 8:1–11). Like me, she was accused, convicted, and judged. They brought her to Jesus as He sat teaching in the temple.

In a huddled heap, prostrate before Christ, she sobs bitterly. Alone, shivering at His feet, she listens to their indictment. The charge: adultery. The verdict: guilty. The penalty: stoning.

But the undaunted eyes of the omniscient Christ see the religious leaders’ intent with a glance. They came to trap Him.

Seeming to ignore them He stoops and writes something on the ground. The circle of bearded men impatiently watches and waits. Stones are ready in their hands. Suddenly He declares: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7).

Again He stoops to write on the ground. One by one the accusers creep away into the crowded street to hide their shame.

Alone now, Jesus looks at the weeping woman at His feet.

“Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”

Incredulous, she lifts her head for the first time and looks into the eyes of the one who will pay the price for her acquittal.

“No one, Lord.”

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more” (Jn. 8:10–11, paraphrased).

Jesus knows everything about me. I cannot hide anything from Him. But He’s not there to judge, accuse, or condemn me. Man has already done that. Jesus is there to offer forgiveness and to bid me not to sin again.

The past can’t be erased. I have to live with my mistakes. But God can use them for good when I have a contrite heart. God’s grace not only completely forgives; it tells me I can begin again.

When I asked Christ into my heart and felt His forgiveness, like the woman in the story, I saw the greatest miracle of all. It’s more marvelous than creation, more mysterious than the stars, more melodious than a symphony, more fabulous than life itself.

God forgives a sinner like me and sets me on the path of righteousness. “Go now and leave your life of sin,” He beckons. Can I do it?

Not in my own strength. Even though in my heart I desire to please God and I don’t want to sin again, I know I will.

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Ro. 7:18).

The devil wants me to focus on the disease so I’ll forget the power of the Physician. But God is able to deliver those He has saved. No, I am not free from sin. It will always be present in my flesh. But my sin cannot condemn me because the blood of Christ satisfies God’s justice.

When I’m overpowered by temptation, I cry out to the Lord. My cry will keep me guiltless. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).

“Go, and sin no more” is a command and a challenge. It means I can begin again wherever I am because I am trusting Him. When I rely on His strength, He will help me. That’s why He came. His love and mercy see me through whenever I pray, “Lord, forgive me for my sins and give me the strength to ‘go, and sin no more.'”

I do the connecting, and then God does the perfecting!

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

Rowing or Sailing?

Transformation into Christlikeness and the Christian life in general seem like a lot of work to many people.

They may even think: 

There must be more to this life than trying;

God must be disappointed in me;

It feels like I live a double life (a public Christian life and a secret life of pain, disappointment, or failure);

No matter how hard I try, I don’t seem to measure up to the standards I know are right and good.

In fact, most of us have experienced the weight of knowing all the things we should be doing and not doing, and the exhaustion of being behind where we think we ought to be. Giving more and trying harder seem to be the only alternatives. As a result, a lot of people give up hope of becoming more of what God wants them to be, because they have no idea how to add any more to what they are already doing.

With that approach, the spiritual life is like rowing a boat (by yourself!). You do your best to persist, even when it is hard. You go to conferences, study, and get involved in serving. You try to do the right things, but never get as far as you think you should.

At times you may even feel as if you were issued only one oar and so you keep going in circles. Some find themselves rowing against the current and going more backward than forward. When they ask for help they seem to hear: “Row harder” or “Do more” or “You are not dedicated enough.”

There is another way in which the wind does most of the work. Sailing. In sailing we learn how to align the sail with the wind and let the wind take us places we could never get to (or imagine) on our own. As we learn how to interact with the sail, we see forward movement because the wind (the Spirit) is doing the hard work.

The sailing approach is spiritual formation, which works from the inside out, relying on the Spirit. Instead of forcing myself to say the words, “I forgive you,” I learn how to engage with God so my heart truly forgives. I can then express the forgiveness from my heart. Instead of only acting as if I love my enemy, I interact with God so that God can change my heart so I actually love them. I demonstrate the life of God because of who I am, not in an effort to override who I am. This changes where I focus my efforts. My task is to learn how to let God work on my heart, rather than trying to do what I think is the right thing to do.

We no longer depend on willpower to override contrary feelings and inclinations, with repeated cycles of repentance and re-dedication: Stability/Failure/Repentance/ Stability. Instead we participate with God to move our inner life forward in ways we cannot manage by our own willpower and effort. The results? Deeper intimacy and trust in God. Scripture comes alive. Internal healing and growth become our normal everyday experience. Life is increasingly seen the way God sees it (through the eyes of heaven).

Formation is then relational.

It is, as many of you have heard me say: You do the connecting, and then God does the perfecting.

The connecting occurs as we glimpse that vision of life in the kingdom of God where I live in companionship with God and rely on God every minute. I use spiritual disciplines (as God invites me) to connect with God. The change in my character then flows out of living a life with God that is rich and full, challenging and adventurous.

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Much of the above is adapted from David Takle’s excellent DVD course, Forming, (www.KingdomFormation.org) with his kind permission.

My Performance ≠ My Value

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!  Galatians 6:14-16 MSG


Wanting to perform at a level of excellence is admirable.

The problem is we are not created to be excellent at everything. The world seems to expect us to be, however, and we sometimes take on unrealistic views of what to expect from ourselves.

Our human tendency is to base our value on how well we perform. We strive to accomplish many things to feel a sense of value and worth. When we do well, we feel good about ourselves. When we don’t meet expectations we or others have placed on us, we see ourselves as failures.

Consider this … 

The possibility of trying to earn God’s and others’ love through how we perform and what we accomplish can overshadow the truth that God loves us for who we are. You may have heard it said that we are human beings, not human “doings.”

God loves you for who you are–his creation.

He loves you unconditionally.

He won’t love you any more–or any less–because of your performance.

Take comfort and rest in knowing that who you are is more important than what you can do. In God’s eyes, you are valuable because he created you and loves you. You belong to him not because of what you have done but because of what Jesus did for you. When you accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, you became a new creation.

It is not what you do. “It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life!”

Prayer

Father, help me remember that my performance, my ability to succeed according to the world’s standards, does not determine my value. But I am valuable because you love me unconditionally, because Jesus died on the cross for me, and because of the person you are molding me to be. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from … Where is the Image of God in You?  by Brad Rymer.

Failure: I Blew It . . . Now What?

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Stephen W. Sorenson

Four steps to help you move forward after you fail

I clearly remember the joy I felt as a gangly 11-year-old when the school coach put me in my first basketball game. It was the moment I’d hoped for—the opportunity to show what I could do. I received a pass, dribbled toward the opponent’s basket, and prepared to shoot. Suddenly, my knee knocked the ball out of bounds. People groaned. The coach pulled me out of the game. My hopes dashed like shards of glass. I’m a failure, I thought, eyes brimming with tears. I let my team down. I’ll never be good at basketball, so why try? Why be laughed at?

I wish I could say that I became a better basketball player after I finished growing several inches a year and my six-foot-four-inch frame gained coordination. But after that incident, my passion for basketball waned. I was unwilling to risk failing again.

Dictionaries reveal that failure is “falling short of success of achievement in something expected, attempted, desired, or approved.” So chances are you’ve also experienced failure (or at least feelings of failure).

Maybe you failed at teaching Sunday school or running a business.

Maybe you failed by breaking a commitment to God or by not sharing Jesus with someone when God gave you the ideal opportunity.

Maybe you yelled at your children, lingered over lustful thoughts, or gossiped even after you were convicted to stop.

Or maybe your failure was caused by other people or by circumstances beyond your control: The invention of the desktop computer sent countless typewriter and typesetting businesses down the tubes, through no fault of their own. Whatever your “brand” of failure, you are not alone.

The moment we are born, we are guaranteed to fail. The Bible says that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3:23). We are born sinful into a sinful world.

Failure is common to all humankind.

Because we can’t insulate ourselves from failure, what matters most is not how we fail but how werespond to failure. Some of us, when we fail, become angry at God. Others blame coworkers, parents, the neighbor, or the pastor. We may give up, like I did with basketball. We may give in to self-pity.

Or we may learn from our failures. My own encounters with failure have taught me four keys to recovering from failure and moving forward. Let’s look at the importance of each.

Seeking God

When we’ve failed—especially when we’ve failed because of our foolishness or rebellion—the last thing we may want to do is turn to God. Yet He loves each of us deeply with a love that is not dependent on our success. He invites us to cast all our anxiety—including the anxiety of failure—on Him because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). He can handle our failures. He is our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer (Ps. 18:2).

Our failures do not take God by surprise. He knows us through and through. He has made provision for us when we fail. Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again so that we—people who fail—can have a personal, intimate, eternal relationship with God and receive complete forgiveness for our sins. Rather than wallowing in the fact that we fail, we can receive the grace God provided through the cross, confess our sins to Him (1 Jn. 1:9), and be renewed. He delights in strengthening us when we admit our weaknesses, request His help, and give Him the glory He deserves.

Besides loving us in spite of our failures—and making full provision for our renewal and restoration—God also promises us the gift of wisdom (Jas. 1:5–8), if we ask in faith, so we can gain His perspective when we fail. Because He is in sovereign control of all things, including our failure, He may even use it to work out His divine plans. Rahab, the prostitute who helped the Hebrew spies in Jericho, turned from her moral failure to the Living God and ended up in the lineage of Jesus.

At a time when I felt like a complete failure, I resisted seeking God. I was angry at Him. But eventually I felt compelled to verbalize that anger in prayer. Why, I raged, did You create me like this, with gifts I don’t seem able to use? God responded by leading me to Ro. 9:20–21:

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

I knew that God was speaking to me at that moment, and I repented of my anger toward Him. I began praying honestly about how I felt. Over time, I watched Him guide me to new opportunities to use my gifts. He has faithfully provided for me and my family, taught me more about His character, and turned my failure into a valuable learning experience. He has also enabled me to share my failures more easily with other people, which has led to deeper friendships. There’s no need to run from God when you’ve failed. Seek Him—and watch Him respond with love, renewal, and the gift of His wisdom.

Pursuing Right Relationships

Failure rarely occurs in a vacuum. Often our failure adversely affects other people.

When David arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to be killed, for example, other godly Israelite soldiers were also killed (2 Sam. 11:16–21). After Aaron agreed to make the golden calf, God sent a plague that killed many people (Ex. 32:35). On a more daily, intimate level, my failure to buy construction materials may mean that my wife, Amanda, can’t complete the wiring of our house. My failure to go on a promised outing with my 13-year-old daughter, Caitlin, may cause her to feel that my work is more important to me than she is. When we fail and other people feel the impact, we may need to take specific steps to heal those relationships.

Seek forgiveness when appropriate. The Bible clearly admonishes us to seek forgiveness. Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23–24). Even a simple, trivial misunderstanding that could be easily swept aside needs to be resolved right away.

Last week my daughter, joy dancing in her eyes, asked me if I could locate a tent because she wanted to camp on our land with a girlfriend. Pressured by an onslaught of tasks and just plain tired, I responded with irritation. I made Caitlin feel guilty for bothering me. Even though I did get the tent for her, I destroyed much of her joy, erected a barrier between us, and ended up feeling even worse. Later, I asked for her forgiveness—an act that drew us close again.

Make restitution when appropriate. In some instances, more is required than asking forgiveness and repenting. “If a man grazes his livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in another man’s field,” we read in Ex. 22:5, “he must make restitution from the best of his own field or vineyard.” It wasn’t enough just to say, “Sorry.”

Remember Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector who had made a fortune, some of it unscrupulously? Convicted of his sin in the presence of Jesus’ holiness, Zacchaeus stood up and declared, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Lk. 19:8). Clearly he recognized the importance of making restitution.

Most of us probably learn our first lessons about restitution, as I did, when we are children. I shot out a neighbor’s window with a slingshot—and soon learned it was up to me to replace that window!

A godly friend of mine learned about restitution in a different way. He received an unannounced visit from a son he did not know he had. Before becoming a Christian, my friend had led a wild life. A girlfriend had become pregnant but never told him. To his credit—and certainly that of his wife—he and his wife received the surprise son into their home, influenced him for Christ, paid for schooling, and sent us a birth announcement—more than 20 years after the fact.

Larry (name changed) had to learn about restitution through no fault of his own. Based on a business agreement, he developed a new product and used the services of various suppliers. But before the product was introduced, the organization broke its agreement with him, which left him owing several hundred thousand dollars to suppliers. Could he have declared bankruptcy? Yes. Instead, he and his wife are sacrificially repaying all the borrowed money.

If your failure has impacted other people, prayerfully ask God what you should do to make things right. Discover what the Bible says about your situation—and the attitude you should have toward people you have wronged. Ask a godly friend for advice. Then, in God’s strength and wisdom, pursue that direction.

Seeking Wise Counsel

Whether you have failed in a public way or in your thought life, in a way that has led to great consequences or had virtually no consequences, you can benefit from the wisdom of godly people as you process and recover from your failure.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, underscored repeatedly the importance of seeking wise counsel. “The way of a fool seems right to him,” he taught, “but a wise man listens to advice” (Prov. 12:15). “Wisdom is found in those who take advice. . . . The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. . . . He who walks with the wise grows wise” (Prov. 13:10, 14,20). Solomon also understood the healing value of wise words: “The tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18).

We rob ourselves of healing and wisdom when we fail to seek counsel from godly men and women.

When career setbacks left me feeling like a failure, I learned the value of seeking counsel. My first reaction to failure was to blame others. Then I became irritable with my wife and daughter. Soon I found it harder and harder to get motivated to try new business approaches.

I became trapped in a negative, depressive spiral in which additional failure was virtually guaranteed.

In the midst of my mental fog, I called a friend for help. During a three-hour walk, he listened to me, challenged me, and encouraged me. He helped me face my anger and acknowledge my need for God. He gave me simple steps to take to break out of my failure mentality—and held me accountable for taking them. His help was pivotal in getting me jump-started again.

Who can you turn to for perspective and encouragement after a failure?

The Pause That Reflects

The fourth key to moving on after failure is taking the time to pause and reflect. Having sought God, restored injured relationships, and received wise counsel, we now need to process what we’ve learned. We need to assess ourselves and perhaps make personal changes.

A few years ago, my wife, Amanda, pointed out a longstanding root of anger that was damaging our relationship. Me? I thought, brushing her comments aside. Gradually, however, I began to recognize that I was falling short of being the husband God had called me to be.

When I realized my failure, did I immediately confess it and repent? No. I became angry because I couldn’t seem to deal constructively with my anger! I put up more emotional walls and became even more critical of Amanda. It seemed easier to shore up sinful, habitual patterns than to try to change them.

Finally, forced to admit to myself that I couldn’t get a handle on my anger, I began talking about my struggle with a wise friend. Over time, he has helped me discern the underlying reasons for my anger. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to face deep hurts and forgive more than I’d have ever imagined. But my friend still gives me the wonderful freedom to process my angry reactions through him and to gently grow even closer to God. My marriage is stronger now, I’ve learned much more about God’s character, and I’m finding it easier to sincerely say, “I’m sorry.”

Have you ever painted over a spot that was greasy or still had loose paint on it? The new paint doesn’t stick well. Likewise, simply glossing over failure makes us miss the lessons it can teach and virtually ensures that the failure will be repeated. My parents posted this saying when I was growing up: “Don’t make the same mistake twice; make a new one.” Another adage is also true: If we don’t pay attention to our history, we will be doomed to repeat it.

You may find, as I have, that the best way to process failure is with another person. Perhaps your style is to use books or teaching tapes to guide your reflection. In whatever way works best for you, take the time to pause and reflect. Ask yourself questions like these:

• Why, according to people who know me well, did this failure occur?

• What did I do in the past that may have led to this failure?

• Is sin creating negative consequences in my life? If so, what are they? Am I willing to confess my sins to God and turn away from them?

• Am I spending time with the wrong types of people?

• Am I loving other people well?

• If I failed because of the actions of another person, how will I respond to that person?

• Am I making wise decisions?

• Am I overlooking key details and in need of wise counsel?

• Am I using my God-given gifts and abilities well?

• Is my career making the most of my strengths, or does it tax me heavily in my areas of weakness?

• Am I regularly reading the Bible and praying—seeking to draw closer to God and receive His forgiveness, wisdom, love, and instruction?

• Do I really believe that God is who He says He is and that I can rely on Him to help me?

• Am I depending too much on other people and not enough on God?

• What can I learn from this failure that will help me in the future?

• What two things have I learned through this experience that I could use to help someone else in the future?

I still fail, of course, but I’ve come a long way in choosing more effectively how to respond to failure. I’m more willing to risk trying new things. I’m asking more questions after I fail and wrestling with issues that need to be resolved. I am discovering more about myself, others, and God. And I’m constantly reminded that it’s what I do after I fail that really matters.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll put up a basketball hoop this weekend.

Why Does God Allow Failure?

SOURCE:  Dr. Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

For the believer, every failure can be a stepping stone to success.

Failure is an ugly word. No one likes it. Everyone is subject to its attacks. There are no ideal situations in which failure cannot become a reality. The first man and woman God created were placed in an environment perfectly suited for them. And yet they failed miserably. Throughout the Scriptures, many of God’s servants suffered failures. The most successful men and women in history have experienced failure. Why do some who fail at first go on to succeed while others do not? Those who eventually succeed are the ones who understand the difference between temporary defeat and failure. They look beyond life’s occasional setbacks and refuse to be completely undone by the obstacles that confront them.

How to Avoid Failure

Matthew 7:24-27 shows us a vivid picture of both success and failure. Two men built a house, one on a foundation of rock, the other on sand. When the inevitable storms unleashed their fury, one house stood and the other fell. In this simple parable we find two principles that can protect us from lasting failure in our personal, family, business, and spiritual lives.

First, always build upon the strong, immovable foundation of truth. Any aspect of life that violates truth is doomed to failure. It may stand for a season, but eventually it will collapse. The truth of Scripture should be our guide in business, as well as in family life. Detours around truth and honesty lead to disappointing and, often, surprising failure.

Second, build for the storms. They are inevitable. What you build will be tested. The consequences of shoddy work, laziness, dishonesty, though well hidden, will unavoidably bring failure tomorrow. You cannot escape the eternal principle: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Why Does God Allow Us to Fail?
The causes of some failures are not quite as clear as others. When we have given our best, why does God allow us to experience failure?

God is not the cause of our failure though He does allow it. Even though we are His children and want what is best, why do we still experience failure? We do not always know what is best. Then, sometimes, we allow ourselves to become sidetracked. Our priorities get out of order; our motivation becomes selfish; Christ is no longer the center of our lives. Failure is God’s way of getting our attention, humbling us, disciplining us, and bringing us back to Himself. Sometimes God uses a painful failure to express His fatherly love toward us.

Remember, there is a difference between failing and being a failure. It is never God’s intention to make us become failures. However, He sometimes allows us to fail today in order to bring us success tomorrow. God has planted in your every defeat the seeds of your future success. Successful people are those who apply God’s remedy for failure: humbling themselves before Him in repentance, surrendering to His will and His goals for their lives. For the believer, every failure can be a stepping stone to success.

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