Believing in Yourself

“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He also was able to perform.” (Romans 4:20-21, NKJV) 
If I’m honest here, right now, I often live in unbelief that God will do as He’s promised. I’m not talking about these “false promises” we like to put God’s name on and call it a day (for traffic to be light, our day to go well, marriage, children, prosperity). I’m talking about those in Scripture, the ones He has given us to remind us in the daily that we cling to faith when those moments of doubt come and not to our own strength. 

But Paul is showing us in Romans back to the start, where Abraham could have wavered, scoffed at God’s promise to multiply his family. But he didn’t. His faith was firmly rooted and steadfast in God, a God who gave him the strength and the faith in which he believed. 

You see, He is a gifted…of faith, salvation, promises, strength, goodness. Yet I find myself doubting those gifts and relying instead on my own faulty and very unstable ways to put faith in.  Doubt will try, in all of its crafty ways to get us to believe in ourselves instead of God. It’s a cunning way for the devil to sneak into our thoughts and get us off-track and away from God. And boy do I fall for it. 

I can look back and see God’s faithfulness in every area of my life as I’m faced with the choice to stand fast or to waver. To be strengthened in faith in Him or take a step away into faith in my disobedient self. 

Maybe like me you’ve made yourself a god in your own life when faced with the lies of doubt.  Choosing belief in self over Him who is faithful and true. Maybe today you needed that reminder of His character and the lies you’ve believed that led to doubt and self-sufficiency. Maybe today your faith needs strengthening in the only One who can give it to you…God. 

Failing Well

This week I am rereading a book I blew through several years ago as a book club I participate in is reading it this month. The topic of failure came up and it got my mind to really dwelling on that topic, something I am not too comfortable with if I am honest.  

You see I prefer succeeding, and don’t we all right? Failing at something, whether big or small, can chip away at ourselves. At our reputations. Our egos. Our mattering. Our perceived failures, or outright ones for that matter, should be bringing us in closer to God. To chipping away at the veneer of who we’ve built ourselves to be instead of who He designed and created us to be. 

Here’s the bigger thing, we all are a bunch of failures. (Encouraging right?) 

Paul tells us exactly that in Romans. We have all sinned and fallen immensely short of God’s glory. It’s staggering how big of failures we are when it comes to getting God’s glory. We can never meet His perfect way, and we display that failure every single day. (I really am not writing an uplifting post huh?) 

But God (my favorite two words in the Bible) gave us faith through Jesus Christ, right smack dab in the middle of our failures so we could see that He meets us right there in them. He recognizes we fall short and comes right out after us, just like the prodigal son’s father. And so now we look at failure as a means for grace, for God to display His patience with me, for learning on my part. 

 “It’s more about how God helps us dust ourselves off so that we can swing for the fences again.” (P.28)

Just like the author of the book I am reading, I too am learning that I would rather fail at the stuff that matters than succeed at the stuff that doesn’t.

Begin Again

So here we are a week into 2017. How are those resolutions treating you? Or better yet, how are you treating them? I know all the statistics surrounding the people who keep their resolutions is staggering at best. It reminds us of failure and best laid plans.

Shoot, even I indulged in cheesecake yesterday and thought “well, here you are ya failure.” But then I remembered it’s my choice. I chose to grab that deliciousness (and it was delicious) with the same choice I made to get in good health this year. One doesn’t nullify the other but it can overshadow it if I let it.

I can allow the weight of one poor decision to counteract the good intentions and focus I had the other six days of the week. Or I can say that this was a choice today, that has no effect on what I accomplished the other six days this week and will have zero bearing on the next six days following.

new-years-resolutions-calendar

Recently I was listening to a friend speak about beginning again…something we all often like to do in January each year. We have come off the indulgences (and some over indulgences) of the holiday season that lasted well over six weeks. We have said “come January” more often than we would care to admit. In my friend’s sermon I couldn’t help but think about how we reserve January 1 as a do over day. We hit reset, wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

But what about April 18? Or July 24? Or October 1?

I think we put far too much emphasis on the date on the calendar than we do the intentions and purpose of our hearts and minds. We lump in so much, put alot of pressure on a new year, on January 1 to bring about some radical shift in our lives that when it’s a week later and we’ve not seen much we grow discouraged. Or when we slip up because we’ve lived for the last eight weeks, eight months, eight years, a lifetime a different way that we chalk it up to us being failures.

What if instead of letting one slip up damage the whole focus of your determination, preparation and focus, you allow it to give you another reset? What if instead of focusing on the location of where you find yourself on January 8th, you focus on the people you get to interact with, what you can learn from them, how you can bring brightness to their day?

Maybe you do need to begin again today. It’s a new day, full of new mercies. It’s full and waiting for you. Maybe it’s about not letting the date on the calendar or one poor choice dictate how your life is structured and lived out. You get the choice. You get the decision. You get to tell failure that it had it’s time, you have learned and you are utilizing that to move in the direction you feel led. That it’s not about where you are in location, job, relationship, hardship or joy but it’s about choosing to begin again with yourself.


You can listen to my friend’s sermon here. (And you should)

So What? 

You ever worry that maybe God got your plans and someone else’s mixed up? 

Maybe that He got busy with a lot of lives and plans that somehow yours was shuffled into existence in some other person’s life rather than your own? 

I struggled with that for a while, and there are days I think just maybe He flipped my life plan with another’s. Yet I was reminded that my concern is not with someone else’s life (and neither is yours with mine) but it is to be concerned with following Him. Even in that I shouldn’t be worrying over the next thing, the career plan or family plan but should be following Him with full attention. 

His will for me is sure, steadfast and promising. It flows out of Him and embodies every bit of Who He is, and not an ounce of what I think it should be. Yes, He encompasses the personality and gifts that He has given…but ultimately His will for my life is nothing short of obedience to Him. That’s it. It’s not worrying that someone else got that promotion even though they don’t attend church as much as you…or that they seem to be succeeding when you feel like it’s all turning up failures and hiccups. 

I look at Peter, our zealous brother of the Bible. I’m a lot like him some days, and even more so there at the end of John. When I feel like someone else is getting what was meant for me or is favored more than I, I point to them and say, “Hey but what about them??” This is after He’s told me what His will is for me, that He shepherds me and has guided me this entire time I say, but that’s not good enough for me. 

Christ’s response to Peter in at the end of John is the same for you and for me today, when we feel as though our concerns for His plan for others is overtaking us…”What is that to you? You follow me.” 

Oof. 

What if He blesses them and not me? What if they get the thing I desired in my flesh? So what if He does allow that for them? That’s exactly what He’s saying to Peter and to me. So what? I’m to follow Him, period, end of questioning, end of discussion. 

Christ has a mic drop moment with Peter, and if I’m honest, with me. When I heard those words shared by the Vice President of the company I work for, I couldn’t help but feel nudged by God too. Maybe you needed to hear them too today. That so what about them? Just follow Him. Concern yourself with following Him in what He has you in currently, where you’ve found yourself, and not so much about others and where He has them. 

Today may you say So What?  when the pokes of comparison, covetousness or jealousy attempt to sneak in. When concerns try to force their way into your life that are none of your concern, follow Him instead. Make Him the focus rather than the complaint. 

All the Questions. 

I ask a lot of questions. I like context and clarity. It’s something as I have gotten older that has provided me with both, and saved a lot of time assuming something else or misunderstanding a situation/comment/task. 

When I was fired from a job, I had a lot of questions, none of which have ever been answered. For a while that unknown, that “no-cause” just left me deflated and assuming a lot. It welled up anger that had to be dealt with, and it also took me to God asking Him a lot of things about how He could let that happen and so on. 

We take a lot of questions to Him, maybe not all of them because we are human and we often try to answer the majority of them on our, in our own thinking, instead of laying them before Him. However He answers in His time and His way. But I find that some questions I ask, and this may hold true for you too, just don’t get answered. 

We hold some elite company in the Bible as well with this. When we look at the life of Joshua we can see his ordainment to lead the people of Israel into the land that was promised. Confidence and influence are with him, as is God. We see him lead them across the Jordan, obedient to the commands of God. 

Then he meets a Man. The commander of the army of the Lord as a matter of fact. Joshua doesn’t know this, only that this Man has His sword drawn. Joshua asks Him a question, of whether He is for them or heir adversaries (Joshua 5:13-15). His question, it goes unanswered. What follows in that very brief synopsis is God meeting Joshua right where he is at, and that’s all that mattered. 

You see I believe that often it’s not our questions being answered that we are in deep need of, but that we need to encounter God and be obedient in humble worship. That we need that time with Him far more than our future revealed or a question deeply answered. He tells us over in Jeremiah that His ways, His thoughts aren’t ours. The sovereign Lord of all is answering our questions so often by giving us what our limited understanding couldn’t comprehend-time spent with Him. 

It took me seeing Joshua and Job (Job 42:5,6) have their direct questions go unanswered to see they were answered by the loving, caring and reigning God for what their deep need was, Him. To know that when I take all of that to Him, He gives what He knows is needed…more of Him and less of me. 

That Year in Birmingham

In a couple of weeks I’ll be headed to Birmingham for an event. At one time, just after college, I called Birmingham home for a year. I have been back once, for a little over 24 hours, in those 13 years since I packed up a that Uhaul trailer with my dad and grandfather and booked it back to Tennessee.

In planning my trip back down, I couldn’t help but recall the first time I went to B’ham as a freshly-educated college grad knowing I had a job in baseball. One week in I was crumpled on the floor of my kitchen telling my sister it was a mistake to be there. That I had somehow made a terrible decision, living five hours from anyone I knew, and I wasn’t possibly going to be able to make it in this city that didn’t offer me much.

Part of me cringes at that memory because of the emotion of it all, remembering how bleak my outlook was and how incredibly alone I felt in that city. The other part of me rejoices though, because I am 13 years wiser from it. God drew me there, whether I wanted to recognize it or not, for a purpose and a reason. He led me there, to get me right here. He did some significant work in me over that year that I can only see in hindsight, and allowed me to work out who I was in some difficult moments.

Throughout my time in B’ham I made some poor decisions, I will own that entirely. My way, my will and my attitude won out on several occasions but I am also able to see how I needed to work out that in an environment where it was me dealing with Him without distraction or other voices bringing solace. Being there allowed me to see where He was not leading me and I was taking my own path and my own way. It brought me back to Him in a way which if I had remained in Knoxville I would not have seen nor chosen.

In so much hurt and grief we cannot possibly see how it’s for our good while we are in it. We cannot see how being alone in place, a place we don’t like and the circumstances aren’t how we would craft them could bring anything remotely resembling His good for us out of it all.

But it does.

It did for me. I am pretty sure it will for you too, if we let go of our expectation of the situation, our will and our way and accept the work God is doing without knowing what it is. The end result isn’t the point, it is what you are going through that’s refining you and making you who God intends you to be in His image, as His reflection and not your own.

The whole process, in the circumstance, in the location, in the job, in the relationship…all of that is the point. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of distance of years or miles to see it. To see how one of the worst and hardest times of your life was also one of the best parts of your relationship in Christ, with God through the Holy Spirit.

But we have to allow it. We have to accept it. We have to be willing to go through it, even in the ugly, even in the lonely, even in the longevity of it all. It’s never about us. It’s about the work He’s doing, we just have to receive it.

The Cave

Often we equate our life experiences to mountains and valleys, sometimes we even throw in a plateau season. Our life journey consists of these three for us if take stock.

Recently I became enamored with the Mt. Everest summit team on Snapchat (yes hi, I’m on there too). It followed the trek of two of the guys each and every step of the way. They were summitting at the same time as those who would pass away on Everest were ascending. One ended up at the ABC camp about 8K feet from the summit while the other was able to reach it and rejoin him two days later. It was fascinating to watch their journey parlayed over the app and have them describe in detail the pain and agony of getting close to only fall short in his mind.

In thinking about their journey, and how we correlate our own experiences to those same ascents, descents and valleys of our lives I couldn’t help but be stuck that there was something missing. Mountaintops give us the highs. Valleys give us the lows where we find still waters, hardships or circumstances that inevitably bring us back to a mountain or plateau. It struck me on Saturday as I went up to Kentucky that we also have another life experience we don’t like to discuss.

The cave. IMG_4774.JPGWhere we are brought further into a valley, to dig deep into our lives and journey to the core of self. Of who we are and what is laid beneath the surface of our lives.

As I walked through the world’s largest cave system Saturday, I couldn’t help but think about my own tunneling in. How God has brought me into this time before where I was weary of the dark, not understanding where it was leading and being fully dependent upon the small flickering light ahead of me.

It illuminates and casts shadows. It can be a daunting place to excavate and maneuver, but you find your footing and you go deeper.

You seek out paths that the light leads in order to continue the journey. You keep thinking that maybe you’re there, and then you turn into a tight squeeze where you might need to get low to get through. Where you find that you don’t quite fit without leaving some of who you brought in with you behind. You shift and change, still moving forward as the light continues on.

IMG_4772Then you face the pit. A pit you can’t quite see the bottom of. You look down and know you have to get across it, but you fear falling into it, unsure of the pit within your own self. A darkness you weren’t aware of that was just around the bend. But you have footing that is sure, that was bridged over long before but allows you to see between the cracks. You see what could have been, what you would have been pulling out of, but instead with sure footing you walk across, remembering what once was but on the path which is leading you to who you are now.

The journey deeper into discovering who you are within isn’t one to be rushed, nor for the sights like you get on the mountaintops or even in the valley views. It’s a process of seeing what you have been, markings left from journeys past, as you dig deeper, sometimes on belly with a spoon, keeping the light ever before you knowing there are paths to discover that lay out more of who you are becoming, allowing light to flood a once darkened space. And when you do journey through, sometimes it’s not to the other-side of the cave within but it loops you back to the beginning, right where you began but not the same. Eyes having become accustomed to the dark that the light at the precipice is far brighter than realized when we bask in it. Knowing that the light within was all that was needed to illuminate our journey but a far greater one awaits for us to take up and take out.

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Sometimes going deeper within is what equips us to begin the next season of our journey, up the mountain, down the plateau or through the valley. But knowing that the Light which we held before us in the cave is still ever before us.