Monday, March 19, 2018

Failing Forward

"The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way." -Dale Carnegie

Failure doesn’t have to be fatal.  What if failure is a very necessary part of the process of reaching our full potential?  What if each and every failure teaches us valuable lessons that refine us so that we become the people we’re called to be.  As cliché as this may sound, many of us know this is true, and yet failure is a medicine that rarely becomes any easier to swallow.  Edison failed 1,000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb, Lincoln lost eight elections before he won the presidency, and Ruth was both the strike out king and homerun king.  What has been true throughout human history is still true for me and you: we get better by trial and error.  Failure is the very currency that can make our lives the most fortunate. 

The righteous may fall seven times but still get up... (Proverbs 24:16). 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Can any good come from suffering?

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” –Helen Keller

The Apostle Paul and Silas shared the gospel anywhere and everywhere they went.  Sometimes they were received well, and many times they were not, yet they persisted to do what God called them to.  In Acts 16, an angry mob beat Paul and Silas and threw them in a prison.  They were bruised, bloodied, starving and dehydrated while sitting in chains in a dark prison cell.

This set of circumstances would have crushed most people, but Paul and Silas began to pray and sing songs to God.  Instead of worrying, they worshipped God.  That night God rescued them by way of an earthquake that opened the prison doors and loosened their chains.  In an amazing turn of events, the jailer went from contemplating suicide to asking them what he needed to do to be saved; from that point he believed in Jesus, led his whole family to getting baptized, washed the wounds of and prepared a meal for Paul and Silas to be on their way.

Only God can save like this!  However, the point of this story isn’t just that God saved Paul and Silas when they worshipped Him through a difficult time, but also that the jailer was watching them worship and it changed his life.  He must have wondered, “How can they worship their God when they’re going through hell?  There’s something different about them. They have got something that I don’t have and I need it.”

Here’s a takeaway: oftentimes our trials can illuminate Jesus to others more so than our triumphs. When we experience sufferings, people will be watching us, and it’s important that we respond in a Christ-like way.  This isn’t to say we should suppress our negative feelings in any way, because we should healthily go through our grief.  My point is that we should choose to worship God in spite of our circumstances, and also tell others of God’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives, so that they too can come to know a saving faith in Jesus.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4, ESV).

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Unfailing Love

“Though our feelings may come and go, God’s love for us does not.” –C.S. Lewis  

King David’s royal family was more interesting than a reality TV show: in his family there was rape, murder and conspiracy.  Absalom’s sister Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon, and because David didn’t punish his son Amnon, Absalom vengefully killed Amnon. Absalom later rounded up thousands of men to overthrow and kill his father, but David told his fighting men to keep Absalom alive.  Even so, David’s commander Joab killed Absalom. 

When David learned of his son’s death, scripture says: “David held his hands over his face and kept on crying loudly, “My son, Absalom! Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 19:4) David felt intense sorrow for and had unconditional love for a man that had betrayed him and tried to kill him, because Absalom was still David’s son. 

David’s love for Absalom is symbolic of our Father’s love for us. When we betray God time after time by our sin, there are always consequences to sin, but yet God still unconditionally loves us to extend grace to us.  Our God is the good shepherd that leaves the 99 to find the one that is lost and the father that welcomes the prodigal son home.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love!

But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness (Psalm 86:15).

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Finding Strength To Carry On

"And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life." - J.K. Rowling

David was God’s anointed and next in line to be king, but Saul still had the crown and every day he tried new ways to find and kill David. Many times David could have killed Saul, but not wanting to disobey God in doing so, David ran from him instead.  The only safe haven for David, his men, their wives and children was the city of Ziklag.  One day while David and his men were away, the Amalekites raided Ziklag and burned it to the ground, taking their wives and children captive.  David and his men mourned like they’d never mourned before, and when they could mourn no more, David’s men talked about stoning David. This became one of the lowest points in David’s life, and there wasn’t anyone with David to encourage him, but scripture says that “he encouraged (strengthened) himself in the Lord.”  God gave David strength to lead his men to find and defeat the Amakalites to restore what they had lost.  
There will also be low times in our lives when it feels like we are all alone, and that is when we have to remember that God is for us and with us.  Sometimes we have to encourage ourselves in the Lord to find the strength to carry on.  No one else will do it for us.  It’s only when we do ask God for strength that He can restore us anew. 

...he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair... (Isaiah 61:3). 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Letting Go

“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.” –Echart Toll

A serious drought had affected Israel and the surrounding territories, and this meant that crops did not grow and people starved.  A poor widow was asked by the prophet Elijah to give him the only remaining food that she had.  She let the prophet know that she had but a little food left for her son and her to eat before they died, but Elijah let her know that if she fed him first then his God would provide for all of her needs.  The poor widow, in spite of not knowing Elijah’s God, went against every parental instinct to serve Elijah first.  In return God provided for all of her needs as promised. Here’s one of the takeaways: if our hands are clutching onto what we want for our lives, our hands are therefor closed to receiving what God has in store for our lives.  Sometimes God asks us to let go of seemingly good things in order to give us great things in return.  

Here’s a pertinent question to ponder: is there something God is asking you to let go of?

"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, NIV). 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

From Weak To Strong

“The strength of a man consists in finding out the way in which God is going, and going in that way too.”  -Henry Ward Beecher

Apostle Paul planted hundreds of churches and wrote 2/3rd’s of the New Testament, and he was probably the most learnt and accomplished man of his time, but he boasted about his weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9) instead of his strengths.  Why would he do that?  At first glance this seems counterintuitive, but Paul said that his weakness, “a thorn” kept him from conceit so that he humbly depended upon God.  It is solely because of his dependence on God that he’s able to say, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (vs. 10).  Likewise, we ought to boast about our weaknesses (maybe not in a job interview or on first date settings, but to God in our quiet times of prayer), because our weaknesses are what create in us a need for a Savior.  We thus need Someone to save us from sin and death, unfortunate situations, Satan, and very often from ourselves... because we can’t save ourselves. The sooner that we take our weaknesses to God to rely solely on His strength, the sooner that He makes us stronger than we would ever have been on our own. 

Let the weakling say, "I am strong!" (Joel 3:10, NIV). 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What Lies Ahead

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” –C.S. Lewis

God had miraculously parted the Red Sea to deliver Israel out of slavery in Egypt, but now Israel had to sojourn through a dessert to find their promised land.  Each and every day God dropped manna from the sky so that Israel wouldn’t go hungry, but eventually this wasn’t enough.  They complained, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost--also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic” (Numbers 11:5).  Isn’t it interesting that they said, “at no cost”?   They painted a rosier picture of the past, brushing over the fact that they were slaves that broke their backs for this very food.  Israel’s selective memory played tricks on them, inhibiting them from appreciating that what was in front of them was better than what was behind them.  Likewise, our minds can often times long for what we once had, all while forgetting that there were specific reasons why that situation was not meant to be.  Let's not be so stuck on the past, that we neglect to see God’s path.  God has a plan for His children whether we see it or not, but the sooner that we begin to trust that He is leading us, the more joy and peace we have along the way of life’s journey. 

Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21, NIV).