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.

What’s Wrong With Being Confident?

Do you ever find yourself working over a particular word or idea and then finding it everywhere you turn around? Lately the term “confidence” has been swirling in my mind. The thought of it, the intentionality behind it, where it derives from within us and where I actually place mine.

The more I have given space to confidence, the more I have wrestled with my own. What it is defined by and what it is placed in.

I think over time we find ourselves putting our confidence in alot of things don’t we? The relationship, the friendship, the beliefs we were told, and even in ourselves. We become really good at putting our confidence, this firm trust in everything outside of the one thing we should.

And that’s where I find God.

His steadfast nature. His true and faithful promise. All that He is exactly where my confidence should be. Where I should remain, knowing, trusting, believing.

I look at David’s words, as I stumbled across them, scribbled in the margins of a book I am re-reading as he cried to God in the cave, as Saul sought his life. He cries out in praise of God: “My heart is confident in You, o God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing Your praises” (Psalm 57:7).

Can I say the same? Do the praises I pour out come from a confident heart in Christ? Or do my words betray me? Do my actions and life lived out point to a heart confident only in self, in what I can do and accomplish, in my own merits? Or is it confident in that position, that title I have or want? Is it placing a good and beautiful gift of steadfast faith in something that is bound to perish and fall away? That will never fulfill the expectation that confidence heaps upon it?

I have placed my confidence in many ridiculous things over the years, including myself more times than I’d like to admit. But when I come down to the root of it, to the root of me, I have to be consciously aware and choosing the steadfast faith I have in the God who is forever the same, and not a changing, flitting heart of my own.

So what is wrong with being confident? Not a thing when it’s a confidence that comes straight from Christ Himself, and a confidence that is in Him alone.

But First, A Word from God

I love books. The fact that I currently have a stack on my bedside table just to read in the next couple of w

I review books as a blogger for a publishing company and I find solace in roaming through bookstores and piles of old books in thrift stores. My library card could have caught fire with how I burn that thing up using it so often.

scripture-and-psychologyBut the problem occurs when I put the words of even well-intentioned Christian authors ahead of Scripture. I can read about getting out of a pit, about loving others through what I do, and realizing the freedom I have in Christ. Yet, if I am not digging into His Word first? Well, then I am robbing myself of actual Truth.

Since Secret Church I have kept coming back to one particular area that David Platt taught on-the goodness of the Bible. And y’all, it is good. It brings us to Him directly instead of us relying upon another to reveal something to us. Just this morning I was really wanting to pour back into the book I am currently reading on friendships instead of the digging back into the book of Acts. Then I realized that I was placing more emphasis on someone else’s words, even a fellow sister in Christ, instead of Scripture itself, God’s very word to me.

There are days when I don’t feel like digging into His word, the hard of it. The messy of it. But it’s His truth, His divine words for me and for you for our lives and for His glory. When I put other’s words ahead of His? Well I start making myself a disciple of that person rather than of Him. (p. 125, Secret Church) I also miss out on the purpose God has for me for my life, because it is right there in Scripture. I give the glory that He is due and give it to that author, that writer, even to myself.

Please don’t hear me say that reading is bad, or that using resources by authors to draw God’s word out is a bad thing. But we first must come to His Word instead of that book. We have to devote ourselves to digging into what He says about Himself to then see how to become more like Him and less like ourselves.

Curses, Donkeys and Truth

God is not a man, that He should lie,

Nor a son of man, that He should repent.

Has He said, and will He not do?

Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Those words from Numbers. Words spoken by Balaam to Balak, a man unwilling to listen. Balak had come to Balaam to curse the nation of Israel, but God has His plans and His words. He used Balaam, who just verses before seemed to be attempting to channel a curse against the people of Israel.

This goes further back to Balaam being summoned by Balak, and thus giving his words to the highest bidder, regardless of their intent or content. Yet God would not allow it. Back in the 22nd chapter of Numbers, God tells him flat out “only the word which I speak to you-that you shall do.” This evolves into the encounter with the donkey and the Angel of the Lord, where Balaam is confronted with the state of his heart on pursuing his own way instead of the one in which God sent him out on.

So we come back to these words here, Balaam’s second prophecy from God to Balak. These words y’all…

I don’t know about you but today my very soul needed to shout them. To myself. He doesn’t lie to us. We may do that to ourselves, but God most certainly does not. And we are really good at lying to ourselves on alot of things that God has never said. Then we turn and look to what He has said and have the audacity to doubt and question if what He said was true. Y’all, I am standing right in this guilt along with you…because we are all guilty of lying to ourselves and then turning the tables on God on what He’s said to us.

I know that there have been times I have put God in human form that is nothing resembling Christ. That I stand in reverence one moment worshiping Him and then turn and act like nothing He has said is true. I don’t love others as I love Him, I don’t honor my parents as I should, I grow jealous of others and their wisdom/platform/ministry. I don’t see the good He’s working in me because I turn my lies into solid truth about all things.

When He speaks, He makes good on it. He has proven over and over again that He is trustworthy, faithful and so very good. He cannot be pulled down to human form as we deem it and then question whether what He says is right, good and true. It’s us that needs the work, that has to rectify that while we cannot understand it some of the time, He is able. He is unchanging. He cannot renege on the promises He has given us. It is our responsibility as those who live in Christ to take those promises as truth, conforming and transforming our thinking to view life through that lens and not the human lies and doubt we so often jump to believing instead.


 

What truths do you need to believe from God today? What doubts have you supplanted in your heart, your mind that He’s told you to have no fear in?

These are things I wrestle with still, but know no matter what your heart and mind attempt to tell you that He is not us, He is God. He is good and true. He will make good on what He says and He will do what He says He will.

Dry Bone Season

This weekend I spent time with women in my neck of Nashville, joining together with women across the globe to listen, learn and see the Word of God come alive at IF:Gathering. Last year I participated in this same local gathering and felt my perspective shift, my heart come open to some things I had tried to close off or be guarded against that God was really pushing hard on me about.

This year I came in tired and sick…battling an upper respiratory thing all week in the midst of one of the driest seasons I have ever had in my 18 years of Christian living. I ploughed through the holidays trying to conjure up the feelings of Christ’s nearness, of the awe and wonder of Emmanuel and I was just left with a bit of empty and hollowness. Even as the new year rang, things have felt very meh with me and the Lord so to speak.

I have been in a hard study of His Word in 1 and 2 Samuel that I’ll be sharing later this week on, but in all honesty, life hasn’t been really living in Christ for me the last few months. It’s felt like a dry desert kicking up some dust and finding spots of growth even in the parched, but nothing lush and overwhelming, no valleys or mountains…just a dry plateau of this journey.

So as I stumbled into this weekend of IF:Gathering I wondered if I could be engaged, if I would hear Him speak directly to me in the dry life I have been living. In realizing all this about the season I find myself in, I never once sought God out of thirst. I never once went to Him asking for Living Water to fill the parched heart that was just surviving. It’s been a very me-focused push through this journey, never once leaning onto God for help or guidance, for filling or quenching. I just thought I had to muster through in this season I found myself in, because I had chosen to enter this season of dryness on my own accord.

For this season I have chosen to isolate and seclude myself from alot, saying it was out of busyness and a call to quiet my life more. But what it really meant was I need to wall myself off because I was being pushed and challenged in ways I wasn’t ready to process and apply, to change and grow in community. IF:Gathering this weekend centered on the early church, and Acts as the Scripture focal point.

A group of women studying Acts, watch out world…but what struck me most was in Acts 1:7 how Christ is speaking to the disciples one final time, that we aren’t to know the times that are set by Father God because He has ultimate authority, God of all. He is sovereign and true, He is faithful and just. He is worthy and above all else, He can be trusted. So in my dryness I sought water. I sought the fountain of His unending faithfulness and love to be poured out when I simply could not make it for myself. I asked trusting He provides, knowing He is good and will give according to His glory what pleases Him.

It took being in this very dry season to understand that I didn’t have the faith to ask. I sought to do it on my own, as I often fail to see myself doing, and instead seek His well of life-giving truth.


This has been the song of constant prayer over the last few weeks.

The Manger

You know the song we sing around this time of year, “Away in a Manger”? Well that song has been on my mind for weeks now. Odd, I know. Of all the Christmas carols, hymns, songs to have, that one isn’t one that truly sticks out as a mind-grabber. But alas, here I am this morning humming it while I clean up breakfast and look at the tree partially lit up (half the lights at the top went out, it’s a thing I just don’t have the will to drag out new lights for).

The line “the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head” is what keeps popping into mind and I am having a hard time here with it. Here’s why…

I think we like to look at Christ as this babe in a feeding trough there in a stable-structure. We like to see Him as this babe that shepherds came to marvel and wise men sought to honor with gifts, but we keep Him there in this context throughout our lives.

jesus-in-the-mangerWe have this concept that Christ is infant-to wonder and lavish love upon, but we don’t like the reality that His Presence commands of our lives. We don’t like that when He came with us, our selves got a bit too uncomfortable, our lives got rocked by Emmanuel. God with us.

Because that meant we couldn’t point to His absence, His silence, as excuse. He physically laid out His life, relinquishing the glories of heaven and His right in order that we might be in relationship with Him. In a few months we’ll look to Him on the cross, but I think we often upgrade the image of Christ as a babe in order to downplay our need for Him.

When we put Christ only in the image of the manger, born in a stable as a helpless babe, it appeases our self to think He can’t do it all, He can’t be relied upon and maybe He needs our help instead of the other way around. We don’t greet Him with welcoming in our lives often, but instead stare in wonder at this humanness of God Incarnate instead.

In reading Luke’s account of Christ’s life, I love the honesty of Mary with Gabriel. Just yesterday  we talked about Zechariah’s response to him as he hears the news of an impending birth. Then just a few verses later, we see Mary greeted by this angel (y’all he wasn’t some little cherub all cute and fluffy, this was Gabriel, mighty angel come to bring the news). Same truth of a birth coming, only this one is the Savior of the world, God Himself. Mary’s initial response is one of confusion, not doubt. But how can she get pregnant as a virgin, unwed? She wasn’t doubting his news, she just couldn’t see the possibility of it with her.

But her response to Emmanuel coming to her, coming to us?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.

“May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Is that how we respond to Christ the King? Is that how we address Him even now, knowing His redemption of our souls was purposed through this very season we celebrate? Do we look to Him as the authority of our lives even in the context of the manger? Because y’all, He didn’t stay in the manger. He didn’t stay in the tomb. He reigns, rules and intercedes for us…

He’s not away in some manger, helpless and in need of us. It’s us that needs Him. We needed Him thousands of years ago, in that manger, to herald a new hope, to rejoice as our weary souls cried out for a Savior. We needed the new morning, new mercies, redemption and grace. There it all came, in the form a baby, heralded by an angel and under all authority given by God Himself, so that we may say “I am the Lord’s servant.”