#Write31Days – Post 2 – Fall of Faith

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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.

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How Does This Scripture Apply to Me? – WRONG QUESTION

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Early in my Christian walk, I read the bible to understand what Christianity was about.  I saw it as a collection of stories & history that explained how we (gentiles) came to believe in God, who Jesus was & why the crucifixion was needed, and to understand what awaits us in the future.  In time, as I would mature in my walk, I would begin to see that this was more than just a collection of information that justified or explained my faith.  It was the true Word of God, it had an enormous amount of value.  The scriptures are filled with stories of people, just like me, who failed miserably but that God could and would redeem.  It became a book of Hope for the weary, Faith for those who love Him, and Promises of an eternal heavenly future.

Under the teaching of some very respected bible teachers, study authors, and church leaders… I began to read the scriptures differently.  I was taught to read the scriptures and ask “How does this apply to my life?”. Now, in some cases of scripture, that is a really easy question to answer.  The Proverbs are full of wisdom that can be applied to every day life.   But there would be times, when I would read a passage of scripture, that I was left scratching my head.  It just didn’t seem to apply.  I wasn’t like the person in the story, the situations I was dealing with in life were different than the point of the story.  I just couldn’t figure out how it applied to me, at all.  In those cases, I would cast it aside for the time being.  My reasoning was that it just didn’t apply at that moment.  But, I figured God revealed it to me because at one point it will.  I will recall reading it, and at that point in the future, I will know where I can return to find the wisdom and encouragement I need.

I am certain many of you who are reading this, are shaking your head in agreement.  But, what if I told you … we are totally wrong.  What if I said that is not the right question to be asking?  Hold on to your hats, if you are, because I am about to rock your socks.

I had an opportunity to attend an amazing conference that would forever change how I viewed the Bible.  I have never looked at a passage of scripture the same.  I study the Bible in an entirely different way.  It came from a group of very well known teachers, that a new question was posed.

You see, the scriptures are not about you and I.   The Bible is the collective story about God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

The Old Testament serves as a witness, or testimony, to how fallen God’s people are.  God gave us everything, perfect and in union with Him.  Man’s choice to go against God’s wills happened in the very beginning… when Eve and then Adam, took a bite of that forbidden fruit.  As the Old Testament unfolds, we illustration after illustration of a repetitive cycle of sin and redemption.

God sets rules.

Man breaks or can’t keep rules.

Man should be punished.

God ultimately saves them from themselves.

They thank God, renew promise to follow his rule.

They do for a while.

Then the cycle repeats itself… again and again…. and again.

Because man continually repeats this cycle, atonement has to be made for these sins.  The Gospels of the New Testament deliver to us a Savior, who will be the final lamb sacrificed for sins of a stiff necked people.  The New Testament continues, with the Good News spreading to new areas, the real life experiences believers faced, and leads us to the end… when Christ comes back for His church.

The Bible from start to finish, isn’t about you… or me… it is about Jesus Christ, our Savior.  The question we should be asking, first and foremost, when we study scripture is:

How does this passage reveal Jesus Christ to me?

Does it reveal the promise of his coming, his birth?

Does it parallel his life to death, on earth?

Does it reveal the need & promise of his sacrifice?

Does it reflect the call He puts on those who follow him?

Does it establish his person-hood, his divinity, his character, his love, his compassion, his mercy, his grace, his obedience… his example?

The Bible was written about Jesus Christ, for you. For you to see that you are not alone in your failures, that just like others in the scriptures you can be redeemed.  But that comes by first KNOWING HIM, and you will get to know Him best when you look for Him in God’s word, before you look for yourself.

I am not suggesting we don’t ever ask how it applies to our life, if that were the case there would be no need for the wisdom scriptures.  I am suggesting that before we can understand the wisdom & themes of scripture (as they apply to us), we have to understand the ONE whom the wisdom originates.  We have to understand how these pieces of scripture, stories and history relate reveal Jesus, first.

I understand that for a good portion of my readers, this a “DUH” moment.  Either because you already know it, or you are simply trying to figure out how you missed it.. it should be a given.  It is very easy for human beings to get so wrapped up in themselves or the situation they are seeking guidance through the scriptures for, that they forget to start with Jesus.

This past summer, I had an opportunity to do an in depth study of the book of Nehemiah.  It was conducted by a panel of biblical scholars; who worked independently on their assigned sections of Nehemiah, while making sure they stood in agreement as team under the Word of the scriptures.

On the surface, you could easily pull out some very “me centered” themes.

* It’s a story about a man who chose to make a difference in his community.

* It’s a story about a man who brings his community back together, back to God.

* It’s a historical point of time, regarding the city of Jerusalem.

* It’s a story about what we can accomplish, when we work together, for the glory of God.

On their own, none of these things are bad.  However, they do not truly reveal the point of the book of Nehemiah.  They don’t get to the heart of the story.  They don’t get to Jesus.

If you really take time to look through the scripture in Nehemiah, you will find that is parallels the ministry & purpose of Jesus.

The city is in ruin, the people are far from God.

Nehemiah leaves his comfortable position, with the king to go to the city & restore it.

While Nehemiah is present, restoration begins.

Nehemiah sets the example & standard.

Nehemiah returns to the king, leaving the people to continue on their own.

The people fail miserably in his absence.

Nehemiah must return.

When you look at the book of Nehemiah, with intention of revealing Jesus… it’s right there, plain as day.  You just have to get yourself out of the way to see it.  This is why, we must come to the scripture first, seeking to reveal Jesus.  It’s not about us, it’s about Him.  Always has been, always will be.

I challenge you to start looking for Jesus, when you study the word.  You will find him. 

In the next installment, we will address what the second question you should be asking is.

WE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO, BUT WE DO…

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A very commonly reference scripture, that is thrown around for a myriad of reasons, is “be in the world, not of it”.   We use the scripture to explain why we are to behave differently, talk differently, act & react differently than non-believers.  For many it becomes a badge of honor, when ever they are living a “holy” life.  This holy life can be everything from not EVER using a curse word, drinking a drink, homeschooling their kids, dressing your kids in certain attire, not watching television, listening to only classic hymnals vs. contemporary praise music, Christian private schooling, demanding church attendance or service, etc.

So, if you have your daughters, dressed with their long hair in buns, no make up, dresses to their ankles, sleeves to their wrists and collars as high as their jaw line…. and someone of the faith says “hey, why do you do that?” — Your defense is “Duh, because we are to be in the world, not of it.”

And then, you (or I) will get offended that we even needed to say something to explain why we are so “different”.

Now before you get upset with me, just set that aside for a moment.

In the world of tattoos, it’s a common to hear complaints about being treated differently because you have a tattoo.  Same could be said of dying your hair a different color, or choosing to dress a certain way.  You’ll find this same mentality amongst anyone who chooses to be “different” than the status quo.

It’s an interesting paradox.  We act differently or look differently than the rest of society, yet we want to be treated the same way.  We purposefully go out of our way to be different, yet get offended when someone dares to ask us about it, comment about it (especially negatively), or even goes so far as to mock us for it.

As Christians, we make the conscious decision to be IN the world, not OF the world… and then take offense when that gets noticed & talked about.  And yes, I could agree that we shouldn’t HAVE to explain ourselves, but when you choose to be different you are choosing to defend that choice too.

Going a bit deeper, there are two reasons why we are not to be IN the world, that is behaving, acting, thinking, talking, spending, et’al like the rest of the world.

1)  It’s about our personally holiness.  If we do not allow ourselves to be put into places of temptation, we are actively working against sin.  No one will be sin free, Jesus was the only perfect person.  However, we can greatly diminish our sin capacity by removing ourselves from things “of this world”.

2)  It’s about reflecting Christ to others.  Others will take note of that difference in us, and thus are pointed to Christ.  Why, we do something becomes more important than the actual act itself.  When others notice that difference in us, it will cause conversation.  In those conversations, we are able to plant seeds.

Will we be mocked?  Certainly.  Jesus, himself, was mocked.   But, there will be those who are drawn to that difference & want to understand more.

So, when you choose to be “different”… be confident in that decision.  What ever you are doing (or not doing) is a conviction, laid upon you by the Holy Spirit.  There will be those who don’t understand… and some who don’t even want to understand.  And that, is ok.  You cannot expect the world at large to understand, accept or respect that difference.  It’s almost like you are speaking a different language.

It’s equally important to remember that how you respond to those critics is being watched too.  It not only blemishes us, but also the reflection of Christ in us.

We may hate having to explain ourselves, over and over again.   We need to examine the circumstances of our situation.  If it is a new person, then we have to remember that while we may have repeated this info a million times in our lifetime, it may be their first time hearing it (or attempting to understand it).  If this is someone we KEEP having this conversation with, yes it is frustrating, but if they are still asking… they care.   They are trying to understand, and yes… they may be even trying to convince you to change your mind.

We know that the things God asks of us as a group of believers, or individually, will be tested.  There will be those who speak against us.  How many called Noah a food for building an ark.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if they understand.  It only matters that we are obedient.   The choice to be angry, defensive, etc … that is your choice.  Instead of being surprised or upset by it, choose to anticipate the questions and reactions.  It takes the sting out & you are more likely to respond positively to the negative reactions of others.

“Obedience does not require understanding.” (The Matrix, Reloaded)

WHAT WAS THE LESSON IN THIS?

MBA

It was an ordinary afternoon, driving my middle child home from school, when I passed a scene on the side of the road.  A pick up truck was backed up to a load of sod spilled across the road.  Based on the position of the sod, you could tell it had slid off when turning the corner.  I saw a man who was easily 15-20 years older than I, sweating and struggling, moving that sod back on the truck.

Normally,  I have my garden gloves in the trunk (I am part of a community garden).  Today, I didn’t.  There also wasn’t a safe place to park, so that I could help him while my child sat in the car.  It was a busy intersection and I didn’t want her out there helping me or doing Lord knows what, while I was distracted.  So, we drove by.

But, I didn’t like it.  It was eating at me, I should help this man.  I don’t know if I could says I was “younger and stronger”, but I was certainly capable.   The further I drove, the more it bothered me.  In my head, the scene played out that someone would see me stopped helping him… and they too would stop and help.  Then in short order, with all the the help, he’d be on his way.  I had this vision of community coming together.

I pulled in to my driveway, ran into the house, grabbed my garden gloves and left my teenager in charge.  I drove back to find the truck gone, and the sod still there in the road.

Huh.

I drove by, found a parking lot to turn around in… and decided to head back home.  In the amount of time it took me to turn around and get back to that spot of the intersection… THREE vehicles stopped to take some of the sod.

It all began making sense.  The sod was dropped, most likely, by a larger truck.  Probably from one of the local sod farms in the area.  It wasn’t worth it the effort for them to load it back up.  The man I saw was just one of many taking advantage of a blessing in the road.  Clearly, not greedy, he took just enough and left the rest for others to glean from.  (It makes me think of the fields in the Bible and how they would leave the remnants for the poor and widowed to glean from ).

But I couldn’t help and wonder… if I wasn’t there to help this man, why did I have such a burning conviction to turn around?

This could have been an exercise in obedience.

But, I think… more than likely, it was a lesson for my children.  One of those moments where they see someone respond to a need.