#Write31Days – Post 2 – Fall of Faith

brokenmug

When I was a small child, we would go to the beach often.  I was holding on to a raft, talking with an older woman.  We had been chatting for quite some time but I hadn’t realized we had been drifting.  I was called back to shore, and realizing it would take too long to swim back on the raft, I decided to walk back through the water pulling the raft behind me.  But there was something I didn’t know…

The woman was treading water.  I thought she was standing.  I took a leap of faith and I nearly drowned.  That event has had a major influence in regard to how I view the ocean.  It made me untrusting of the sea.  That doesn’t mean that I stopped going to the beach, or that I wouldn’t get in the water.  I still loved boat rides and splashing along the shore.  However, I learned the hard way to respect the dangers that ocean presents.  I take precautions when I am in the ocean, such as checking the rip current reports or the weather before we head out.  I no longer assume that it’s safe to let go of the raft.

Recently I was posed with the question:

How do I begin to trust God again, when I took that leap of faith and it failed?

What I have learned since the day, is that the ocean is not the one who was untrustworthy.  The ocean is, as the ocean is.  It doesn’t really change, the dangers are always present.  I was untrustworthy with the ocean.  I made assumptions.  I didn’t look at the environment around me and make a educated decision.  I didn’t ask the woman next to me how deep the water was.  I just jumped, recklessly into the water.

God is trustworthy.  He is unchanging, all knowing, and perfection.  He is worthy of our trust.  If a leap of faith fails, I believe it is the person who was untrustworthy.  A leap of faith is never done recklessly.

If God puts it on your heart to walk across the street and hand a stranger $100 bill, you should take the leap of faith.  Do what God is asking of you, despite not knowing the person or the reason why.  However, that doesn’t mean you cross the street without looking both ways.  That would be reckless, you could get hit by a car.

Leaps of faith are not reckless, they are bold.  When God asks us to take a leap of faith, it is going to be a bold step and potentially will make us feel uncomfortable.  Yet, we don’t make that leap blindly.  We must get the full picture of what that means, so that we make no assumptions and we are not caught off guard.

Occasionally, it may be God’s intention that your leap fails, but understand that failure is only YOUR perspective.  From God’s perspective there was a purpose and a lesson in that failure for you.  It may be a stepping stone to get you prepared for a bigger task ahead, to point you in the right direction, or help refine your call.    If it is a true God ordained failure, that leap will be redeemed somewhere.  It won’t happen just to make you miserable, lose everything, and be a total waste.  It will serve a purpose and you will see it eventually.

If you take  a leap of faith, and it turns into a fall… unredeemable, no purpose, no lesson… you took a reckless leap.  How was it reckless?

  • Your Timing, Not His –  There are times when we can see the destination God is taking us to, we recognize it as a leap of faith, but we want it so badly NOW that we rush God’s blessing.  We try to do it in our own timing and not His.  Then it doesn’t work out, and our faith is tested.  But it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting in His timing.
  • Your Strength, Not His – When a person has a goal or a dream, they are by nature do-ers.  They want to make it happen, and they will put in a LOT of hard work and effort into it.  They will continue to dump time, energy, and money into whatever it is.  Then it fails.  But it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting in His provision.
  • Your Desires, Not His Calling – Sometimes a leap of faith, is really a fall into our own desires.  We want something so badly (even godly things) to happen, that we justify it in our minds as what God wants.  We jump right into the deep end without affirmation , and then everything falls apart.  But, it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting His counsel.

If you examine the scriptures, there is not a single piece of evidence that God is reckless with His people.  Bold?  Yes.  Asking them to do the impossible?  Absolutely!

BUT….

God always goes ahead, preparing the way.

God always is with them, providing for their needs.

God always comes behind, protecting and securing their journey.

Every single time that calamity comes upon His people, it is NOT because God failed them.  It is a result of His people losing faith and trust in Him, trying to do things in their own way, in their own timing, and making reckless decisions.  They took their eyes off of God, and looked only at themselves.

A God ordained leap of faith will never fail in HIS purposes, in HIS strength, and in HIS timing.

If you truly believe you took a leap of faith, that failed, I would challenge you to carefully and prayerfully examine that leap.

  1. Was this God’s desire for me?  Or my own?
  2. Did I rush God’s blessing?  Was I impatient?
  3. Did I try to make it happen on my own?  Did I not trust?
  4. Was I discontent during the process?
  5. Did I make reckless decisions?  Did I seek God’s counsel?
  6. Were there any affirmations outside of myself to confirm this calling?
  7.  Was I faithful in prayer and obedient to His word, during the process?
  8. Did I doubt God’s protection and provision during the journey?
  9. Is there a lesson I was being taught that I might have missed?

Pray that God would reveal the truths to you about that leap that became a fall.  As we begin to see truth, our trust is restored in God.   We also begin to recognize how untrustworthy we truly are when left to our own devices, and learn the hard lesson to fully rely on God.

Peter took a leap of faith, when he stepped out of the boat.  Not because of what he thought HE could do, but because he believed Jesus.  He didn’t trust his own ability, He trusted Jesus’ power.  It was only when he looked at himself that he began to doubt, and started to sink.

You may think that your Leap of Faith turned into a Fall.  But, God’s work in you may not be completed yet.  He’s reaching out his hand to you, to pull you back up onto your feet, and step out onto the waters of trust.

Bible Study – The Third Question

MBA

In the past two weeks, I have written a bit on bible study… what is the wrong question to ask, and what is the right question to ask.  We are about to head full circle, but let’s recap.

Our first question, when studying any scripture, should be:  How does this reflect or reveal Jesus?

All scripture, the entirety of the Bible, is God’s redemptive story.  It begins with creation, shuffles through man’s epic failure, resulting in man’s need for a savior, God’s deliverance of a savior and the redemption we receive through Christ’s sacrifice.   Every passage in the scriptures is not about me or you, our first response should never be to figure out how the scripture applies to us.  The first question needs to be 100% about Jesus, how is this passage about Jesus.

The second question is a two part question:  1) Who is speaking? and 2) Who are they speaking to?

When we take the time to look at who is speaking, or who is the author of the passage, as well as who the audience is…. a lot of information is revealed.  This information puts the scripture in context to the culture and the climate of the people.  Understanding history has always been important for future growth, it’s why we study it in school.  We must know where we come from in order to know where we are going.  History teaches us what we need to stop or not do, as well as what we need to start doing or do better.

Once we acknowledge Jesus in the scriptures, recognize who the speaker or author is, and identify who is being spoken to… THEN we get to come back to the question of application.

Asking how scripture applies to you and I is not an inherently wrong question, it’s just usually done in the wrong order.  If you have ever found yourself wondering why a piece of scripture doesn’t seem to apply to you, it’s because you asked that question first.  Had you taken the time to find Jesus, and understand the context of the scripture, application naturally follows next.  You begin to see the nuances you might have missed.

At that point, it may be obvious that this scripture applies to you because it is an important piece to a bigger story.   You just need to keep reading.  Or, you may see where it parallels to events in your life.   Because, the honest truth is if all scripture reveals Jesus, then all scripture is applicable to your life. It is the door that you open for Jesus to come in and do something amazing in your life.  Every time we find Jesus in the scriptures, it affirms our faith, gives us confidence in God’s Word and promises, and points toward hope.

How is any of that…  “not applicable”… to your life?

I know that I need to see Jesus in everything.

I know that I need to affirm my faith with the revelations of God’s Word.

I know that my confidence in the Word and the promises of God, is built through the scriptures.

I know where my hope is found, the scriptures tell me so.

It all applies to us, through Jesus Christ.

TGC Women’s Conference Notes, Part 3 – Nehemiah Sessions #1-2 (Ch 1-4)

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These are my notes on the book of Nehemiah from The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference.  There were 7 total sessions, covering all 13 chapters.

Session #1 – Kathy Keller, Nehemiah Chapters 1 & 2   (VIDEO:  Nehemiah 1-2 Kathy Keller: http://vimeo.com/99765572)

Nehemiah is an OT Narrative, it is basically Nehemiah’s journal of from that time period.  Israel at this time was a weak conquered remnant.

In Chapter 1, Nehemiah gets word about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile and the state of Jerusalem.  It wasn’t pretty.  The city itself was broken down, damaged.  So were it’s people.  Nehemiah is pained by this news.  He prays to God.  His prayer consists of 1st praise, then confession, then glory to God, and then asking for God’s favor.  This prayer was not a one time event, rather Nehemiah prayed for 4 months.  Until the Lord guided him to act.

In Chapter 2, Nehemiah (who is cupbearer to King Artaxerxes) presents his concerns about his people to the king, when asked why he looked so sad.  King Artaxerxes favored Nehemiah and not only granted his request to go to his people, but also his requests for provisions and provided protection for him.  Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and assessed the situation.  At first he kept his plans to himself.  Once he was able to survey the lands and determine a plan of action, he then shared what God had put on his heart.  The people were ready to work.   Although there were some that stood against him.

From Kathy Keller:

We have prayer from Nehemiah that can be summed up with:  If it will glorify you, then I am ok with it.

When Nehemiah got the word about Jerusalem & it’s condition, he had two choices… a bad reaction or a godly reaction.

The back story here, the history, is that Jerusalem was in ruins, Nebuchadnezzar took the Israelites captive. Time passes Cyrus has compassion for the people & wants favor with their God so he allows them to rebuild the temple (2 Chr 36:22-23) But then Artaxerxes stops the rebuilding progress due to the influence of his counsel.  Remnants of Israel begin to intermarry, their worship practices end.  (Ezra 4-6:10)

Now Nehemiah is a man who understands God’s Word, he sees the bigger picture.  He doesn’t just try to fix the circumstance, he recognizes it is more than just building the temple.  Restoration to the people needs to happen too.  Nehemiah leaps to action by praying.

Nehemiah is 1 small story, in the larger story of Jesus.  It’s a redemption story.  From ruin to renewal.

The Bible is not about us.  It’s not there to access to understand our circumstances.  It is there for Jesus and about how God deal with the world.  We do not need to be feeding our soul with artificial inspiration and toxic devotionals that have no value, aka “Soul Junk Food”.  We need the meat and milk of HIS ACTUAL WORD.

(my personal note…. the devotions I read and write need to be pointed to Jesus, not me… not my circumstances, unless ultimately GOD is glorified through it)

Nehemiah didn’t need a devotion, a fleece or a sign.  He was a man who knew God’s word & took action in that confidence to enable his peopleto be what GOD needed them to be.  Nehemiah didn’t negotiate with God (do this, then I will…).  He just did what God required of him. (I will, so God can…)

In his prayer, Nehemiah was interceding on behalf of Israel.  It wasn’t the first time either, Moses would do it frequently.

After his 4 months of prayer, God set Nehemiah on a fast track of action.  There was opposition, but Nehemiah went for broke.   He had confidence in God, so he had no qualms about asking the King for more provisions/assistance.  He was called.  He went.  Action was needed.  Action was taken.  When God calls you to action, it is often because you see a need others don’t.

Nehemiah was taking radical action based on his knowledge of God’s Word & for the redemption of his people.

Parallels to Jesus…  Nehemiah was with the king, in the comfort, safety and luxury of the palace.  (Jesus was in Heaven, with God).  Nehemiah assessed the situation and prayed before starting his work. (Jesus walked the earth for thirty years before starting his ministry).  He put himself at risk for Jesus.  (And Jesus put himself at risk, for us, and paid the ultimate price).

Additionally what is important to this story is that this HAD TO HAPPEN.  Nehemiah needed to restore Jerusalem and his people, otherwise there would be no Jewish culture/society that would need Jesus.  It would have been entirely lost.  They had to get back in the sight of God, so that God could redeem the people.

“God’s people do not need to be a powerful culture or in a powerful position to be obedient & accomplish his purpose in the world.  All they need is to be faithful.  He will accomplish it.” (Kathy Keller, The Gospel Coalition Women’s National Conference 2014, Nehemiah 1&2)

Session #2 – Timothy Keller, Nehemiah Chapters 3 & 4   (VIDEO:  Nehemiah 3-4 Timothy Keller: http://vimeo.com/99790975)

In Chapter 3 is essentially the delegation of work for the rebuilding of the wall.  Each portion of the wall is built by a specific group, basically repairing the portion of the wall that was was closest to their house.  The chapter details out that the people doing the work were made up of all classes and genders.   All of society was represented.

In Chapter 4 we see the opposition that they face in doing so.

From Timothy Keller:

Nehemiah left the safety of his position with the king, to do what God called him to accomplish.   The wall was the first thing build, to protect his people from those who would oppose the rebuilding process.  This is a parallel to salvation, like the walls of a city, protecting us from sin. (Isa. 26:1)

Keep in mind that we are not building walls to keep non-believers out, to be separated.  NO.  We are building walls of safety, and we are bringing the people into the city, into citizenship.  The gates are open.

Moses was often working for God without the cooperation of the community, they were easily swayed and distracted.  Yet here we see a full community, working together for the greater good.  This is a progression of redemption toward Holiness.  All of us, working together… The whole people of God doing the ministry.  We become living stones in a temple. (Eph 2, 1 Peter 2).

Nehemiah points to the future.   We all have a ministry.  We are one people, united.  All with gifts and talents to be used for HIS glory within our community.  The early churches grew through evangelism, not due to great pastors and preachers.  It grew because EVERYONE did it.  Studies, readings, prayer groups, etc.

We are unified as Christians first, our nationality/position comes second.   Just as all the different classes & positions & genders joined with Nehemiah to rebuild the wall, we must be unified as Christians FIRST in the calling God has laid before us.  It bonds us together, regardless of our individual identity.

In Chapter 4, when they face the opposition to the rebuilding from the outsiders… it says they were despised and insulted.  The response was prayer and then posting a guard.  This points us toward the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

They prayed, first (God’s sovereignty) .  They posted guards, second (human responsibility).

Jesus was sacrificed by God (God’s sovereignty) .  But, he was crucified by wicked hands (human responsibility).

When things happen:   God is in charge (God’s sovereignty).  What you do matters (human responsibility).

Just as Nehemiah and the Israelites were despised and insulted, we will also be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). This side of the cross we have an opportunity to forgive that Nehemiah didn’t…. when people slander us, insult us, hurt us.

“Take the hit to your reputation, because I [Jesus] took more for you”   (Timothy Keller, The Gospel Coalition Women’s National Conference 2014, Nehemiah 3&4))

I STAND CORRECTED…………… (Part 2/2)

MBA

I am going to be honest, I do not take well to criticism.  I am an eager learner, I don’t mind being corrected when I am wrong.  I value the opinions of others.  I am a move forward, not back kind of girl. But, there are times when I can allow criticism to get under my skin.  But, there is a difference between criticism and correction.Recently my husband informed me that I “don’t finish projects”.  For those reading this, who know me personally, you are probably wondering if this man knows me at all!  My husband was not correcting me or guiding me, he was being critical.  I didn’t take kindly to it and I proceeded to remind him that he was the one who initiated our journey into Dave Ramsey living.  If he would like me to finish our household projects, I’d be happy to… the moment he handed me a credit card or expanded my personal budget.  (I was being very sarcastic, I really wouldn’t do that.)   I wanted him to understand I was doing the best with what I was given, and he needed to be patient through our “cash only process”.

As I was reflecting on the confrontation I had with my friend (see last month’s devotion), I asked myself if I was being critical of her.  Or, was my assessment of the situation accurate & correction was the right course.  That is, after all, what correction is.  We are helping someone who has taken a turn get back on course.  In some cases it is an obvious sharp turn, and in others it has been a slow, gradual, drift.  When I struggle with anything like this, I always turn to the Word.  If I can figure out what God has to say about it, perhaps figuring out my next steps won’t be so hard. I also reached out to those I consider wise counsel.

As a result, I came to find that scripture not only tells us that we should correct our sisters in Christ, but we are also told how we should be responding to correction.  In reading this, it not only confirmed for me that my friend was responding incorrectly, but also made me take at look at my own responses to correction (and criticism
too).

Proverbs 19:20     Take good counsel and accept correction— that’s the way to live wisely and well.

How do you respond when someone corrects you?  Do you get defensive?  Do you make excuses?  Do you try and pass the buck & blame someone else?  Or, do you try to justify your behavior in order to make it ok?  When you read last weeks devotion, did you relate to it?  Have you responded in the same way my friend did?  Do you take it personally when a friend tries to encourage you to have a different perspective?  Are you teachable?

This bit of advice was shared with me, just this past week:
“When someone gives you advice that you don’t want to hear, you should not react until you have:
1) prayed about it
2) compared the advice to Scripture
3) asked yourself, is it true?”

Being accountable to each other as friends is a two way street.  We must be willing to not only give correction, but also receive it.  If I speak in truth and love, then I should receive with love and humbleness.  I need to embrace this person, who cared about me enough to call me out on my behavior, and help me realize what I was doing & become better for it.

Proverbs 27:17    As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Lord, I pray that you give me a mouth that speaks, when it is time to speak; and ears to listen, when it is time to listen.  Help me to speak in YOUR truths, through MY love for my sisters in Christ.  Let me received YOUR truth, through THEIR love for me.  Protect our friendship from division, so that we may continue to encourage each other to be focused on YOU. Amen.