Learning From Failure

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My Musings – This was a familiar pattern in the Old Testament.  God delivers the promised land into the hands of the Israelites.  They get complacent and fall into sin.  God brings judgment through their enemies.  The Israelites call out to the Lord.  He provides a deliverer (called a Judge).  And the cycle starts all over again, and again and again.  They seem to never have learned from their failings.

Are we any different?  Are there cycles of failure that we repeat time and again, never seeming to learn from prior experiences?  Of course it is better to not fall into sin in the first place. But when we do, once we are delivered and restored (following confession and repentance), we should learn from the past failure and be on guard lest we repeat it in the future.

Of course, not all failures are the result of sin. “Failure in and of itself is not a bad thing. But failing to learn from it is inexcusable.” (Alison Levine, On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership).  In our journey of discipleship, God will take us through failures (not sin) so that we will learn from them.  For it is on the journey that we learn the most and see our character develop the most. “The journey is where we find perspective.” (Alison Levine, On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership).

My Advice – What are we learning?  It would be a pity to go through the struggle and not reap the benefit of learning from it.  So pay attention.

Who Are You Really?

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My Musings – We are not born with character.  It is borne from our experiences.  Usually difficult experiences.  However, while many people experience difficulties, and even persevere in spite of them, character is not produced in all of us.  While suffering and perseverance are almost always a prerequisite for building character, it does not always result in character. “Character does not suddenly appear when we reach the mountain peak. It is something we develop on the journey up. The sometimes long, sometimes arduous journey.” (Adapted from “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek).

Many people may appear (have a reputation) to have character, but under the surface (who they really are) they do not.  Our true character is revealed in a variety of ways.  Here are a few:

George Orwell – “The real test of character is how you treat someone who has no possibility of doing you any good.”

Abraham Lincoln – “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

John Wooden – “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

J. K. Rowling – “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a look at how he treats his ‘inferiors,’ not his ‘equals.'”

Stephen Covey – “A moment of choice is a moment of truth.  It’s the testing point of our character and competence.”

Unknown – “Everyone tries to define this thing called Character. It’s not hard. Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.”

My Advice – Character is the only thing you can take out of this life.  A treasure to store up that moths and rust cannot corrupt. Only we can do that.  Quick, while no one is looking, what choice will you make?  Your reputation may not suffer from your choice, but what about your character?  Choose wisely, it might just be your defining moment.

Stay With The 99

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2 Chronicles 15:2The Lord is with you when you are with Him.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – It is hard to walk against the wind, row against the current, ride a bike uphill or “kick against the goad.”  But these are nothing compared to going against or forsaking God’s Word.  There will still be difficult times in this world because our relationship with Christ earned us a new enemy.  Satan wants us to think that the winds, current and terrain are against us, but again these are nothing because they are from his hand not God’s.  God allows them to strengthen and temper us.  But we need not despair. In fact we can take heart, because Christ has overcome the word.

My Advice – Not all who wander are lost, but they still are wandering.  So, keep in step with Jesus. He will never leave nor forsake you, so do not leave or forsake Him.  Then we can take heart because “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

In God We Trust

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2 Samuel 7:28O Sovereign Lord, you are God!  Your words are trustworthy. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Imagine if you will a sovereign that was not trustworthy.

Sovereign – Possessing supreme or ultimate power.

Trustworthy – Able to be relied on to do or provide what is needed or right.

Such a sovereign would, without fail, be able to deliver on his promises, but could not be counted on not to fail.  By definition, this person could not be considered trustworthy.

Now consider someone that you might otherwise consider as trustworthy, but may not have the power to always deliver on their promises.  By definition, this person could not be considered trustworthy (reliable).

We can now begin to see why sovereign and trustworthy results in the proclamation “you are God!”  We can also see why the motto “In God We Trust,” was not chosen lightly, and why it should not lightly be cast aside.

Not Chosen Lightly – Our National Motto – ‘In God We Trust’ – was not chosen lightly. It reflects a basic recognition that there is a divine authority in the universe to which this nation owes homage – Ronald Reagan.

Not Lightly Cast Aside – The guiding principle of this Nation has been, is now, and ever shall be IN GOD WE TRUST – John F. Kennedy.

My Advice – Take “In God We Trust” as a guiding principle.

 

 

The Minority Report

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Romans 2:21-23[Y]ou, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?  (NIV 1984)

My Musings – This one’s going to sting a bit.  The following quote was recently posted to my FaceBook page. “A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by a majority.”  I like the quote.  I agree with the quote.  I believe the quote is very descriptive of what we see happening in these “last days.”  So, I shared it.  But need to be aware of a couple potential problems.

Problem #1 – While we certainly should not condone or excuse calling a lie truth (or truth a lie), wrong right (or right wrong) or evil good (or good evil), perhaps we should not be too eager to condemn a society that does?  After all, weren’t we part of that majority at some point in time?  They are now, like we once were, already condemned.  What they need now, like we once did, is redemption.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save [redeem] the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”  (John 3:17–21, NIV 1984)

We cannot expect those living in darkness to recognize the light for what it is, if we use it as a weapon to maliciously expose them and not as a tool to sincerely help them see plainly.  We do not want people to be blinded by the light.  We want them to be able to see through the darkness because of the light.  And there is no middle ground here.  We must not dampen the light in an attempt make truth, right and good less “offensive” and more “user-friendly.”  A watered-down Gospel is no gospel at all.

Problem #2 – Just like God did not send His Son to condemn, but to save, Jesus sends us to be wielders of the light in an increasingly dark world.  But we cannot expect those living in darkness to see the light as a good thing if it also reveals our hypocrisy. “You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?”    We cannot excuse our own faults by viewing the faults of others as more egregious than ours.  Jesus was not scourged less for our sins than theirs.  His cross was not made heavier because of their sins than it was for ours.  His death was not more necessary for their sins than it was for ours.  Their was no sin so great that Jesus did not die for it and no sin so small that He did not have to die for it.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14–16, NIV 1984).

We cannot expect those living in darkness to see the light as a good thing if rather than illuminating our good deeds, it spotlights our hypocrisy.

Now here is where it really stings.  Are we Christians, in our hypocrisy, just as guilty of calling a lie truth, wrong right and evil good, when we excuse our “minor” sins while excoriating  the “major” sins of the lost?

My AdviceAlways be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  (1 Peter 3:15–16, NIV 1984)

Proclaim the truthBut do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.  

Stand up for what is rightBut do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.

Expose evilBut do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.

Remember, the lost do not need our condemnation, because they already stand condemned.  They need our light to guide them out of darkness (the lies they believe to be truth, the wrong they believe to be right, the evil they believe to be good), to where they can see clearly enough to believe the “minority report.”  Do not compromise your credibility as a wielder of what is true, right and good, by living like the majority.  Keep a clear conscience.

When all is said and done, the majority may continue to “hate the light” and speak “maliciously” about our witness.  We should not expect to be treated any differently than the Master.  Let’s just make sure that the malicious talk is indeed “slander.”  In so doing, we just may help rescue some.

Now for what really, really stings. This advice, like most of the advice I give, is just as much for me as it is for others.

 

Small Hands

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1 Corinthians 1:26-29Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – Not many were wise, influential, or of noble birth.  Many were considered fools, weak and lowly.  Yet God chose shepherd boys, fishermen, tax collectors, harlots and the least of their clan for some of His greatest tasks. His Son’s birth was less than noble, His profession was “blue collar” at first, then an itinerant preacher with no home or place to lay His head.  He was so influential that they crucified Him, because they could not accept His wisdom.

We tend to think of the wise, influential and noble as the movers and the shakers.  But God can use even the foolish, weak and lowly.  Billy Graham perhaps led more people to the Lord than anyone else in all of history.  We admire him for this, as we should.  Yet just as important was the man who led Billy Graham to the Lord. One “man” influenced twelve “no accounts,” whose small hands moved the wheels of the world turning it upside down.  The eyes of the great were on Rome.  The eyes of the Greatest were on His Son and the ones He chose to carry out His task when He was gone.

“This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” (The Council of Elrond, from The Lord of the Rings).

My Advice – Do not think because you are not the wisest person, or the most influential person or a person of noble birth that you cannot be used by God for wise, influential and noble tasks.  It may seem little to you and little to others.  But if it came from God it means a great deal.  It may seem little more than the gentle puff caused by a butterfly’s wings here and now, but it just might be this “butterfly effect” that figuratively “moves the wheels of the world.”  God may not call all of us to do great things, but He will call us to do essential things, that He Himself prepared in advance for us (just for us) to do.  We are not called to be famous (although we might be), but we are called to be faithful.  “Small hands do them because they must.”

Secrets of My Success

1 Chronicles 22:11-13Now, my son, the LORD be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the LORD your God, as he said you would. May the LORD give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. (NIV 1984)

Colin Powell – There are no secrets to success: Don’t waste time looking for them. Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty to those for whom you work, and persistence.

My Musings – Success without these milestones on the way is really no success at all. It is merely a destination, not an achievement.  But neither the destination nor the achievement will be worth it in the end if the LORD is not with you.  He will be if you are careful to observe His Word.

My Advice – There is no easy road to success. But if you conduct yourself in your job, as you have thus far, you will succeed.  So “be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or discouraged.”