How To Recover from Failure

In my personal ministry, sadly, I experience people more at their moments of failure than in their moments of success.  As an optimist, I plan for success.  I believe God desires success for His people. As a realist, I see failure all around me.  I believe God allows failure and uses it to draw us closer to Him and to teach us valuable insights into our characters and into the character of God Himself.   Failure has been a part of my life (a big part) and it is prevalent in the lives of the most of the successful people I know.  Therefore, we must learn how to recover from failure.   

 

Here are a few things to remember after and during your moments of failure.   

 

·         Take time to rest after your failure, but do not sit still for long.  Idleness often leads to temptations and worry. (I almost used another cliché’ involving idleness and the devil, but decided not to.)  Do something, even if it is volunteer work. 

·         Know that not everyone is talking about you, even if it may feel that everyone is. 

·         If people are talking about you, it will not last long until the new “failure of the month” comes along.

·         Take some time to re-evaluate what led to your failure.  Accept fault where appropriate and do not be too proud to say you made a mistake.

·         Learn from your mistakes and build safeguards in your life to keep from repeating the same ones.   

·         Keep your mind and body healthy.  Read, exercise, pray, and think.  It is important to stay fresh for your next opportunity. 

·         Begin to dream new dreams and set new goals.  (These goals can be the same goals you had before you failed if you are willing to take a risk on them again.) 

·         Make a decision in your heart to rise from your failure.  Prove to those who thought you could not (or at least you thought that is what they were saying) that you can succeed.  More than that prove it to you! 

·         Allow failure to make you stronger and better. 

What Language Are You Speaking?

Some people speak a language they share with the group of people who have a similar lifestyle, occupation or interest.  They use code words, anacronyms and phrases that only those within the group understand. Living in a military town, for example, I often hear a phrase like “he’s with the 82nd Airborne Division”, which to us civilians means????  Being married to an accountant wife means that having a tax conversation with her involves me knowing certain form numbers such as “W4 and W2”.   We tend to indoctrinate ourselves with the language and culture of the people we hang around, work with, and from whom we learn. 

 

Here is a short, random list of examples of people who speak a separate language. Feel free to add your own.

 

Accountants

Military

Physicians

Teachers

Christians

Pastors

Sports fans

Musicians

Techies

Cooks

 

Here is the reason this issue matters to us. It is perfectly okay and perhaps even necessary to have the language within a defined group of people.  It expedites the process and builds commonality and loyalty, but if we are not careful, we will alienate people outside our “group” who do not understand our language.  If we want to help people understand who Christ is and what He means to us, then we have to realize that not everyone understands what it means to be “growing in the Lord”. 

What phrases can you think of that Christians (or other groups) use that would be hard to understand outside the “group”? 

A Dog’s Christmas!

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. Romans 8:19 NIV

Most of us have a nativity set sitting around for Christmas. If your nativity set is like most I’ve seen, you no doubt have a few animals sitting around it. There may be a cow or two, a sheep, even a camel if it is a fancy set! Of course, Joseph and Mary placed Jesus in a manger, which is a feeding troth for animals, so there certainly would have been an animal or two close to the scene.  I wonder if the nativity scene were to take place in modern day America if there may be a puppy dog nearby.  (My yorkie dog would have loved the baby Jesus!)

It shouldn’t surprise us that animals may have witnessed the birth of the Christ child. Jesus was the Creator. He was with God from the very beginning, planning each intricate part of Creation. All creation, with the exception of man, naturally glorifies the Creator by unconditional obedience. A cow does as a cow is supposed to do. A camel is a camel is a camel. You don’t have to train a bird to tweet, it does as it was created to do.

The creation waits in eager expectation for God’s Son to be revealed! This was the Creator! This was their Master, the Inventor of life!

I once read a story about a mother who found her nativity scene continually disrupted.  She would enter the room to find all the pieces in one big pile. She would straighten it, only to find it messed up a few hours later. One day she witnessed her daughter piling the pieces together. When questioned, the little girl replied, “Mommy, it’s Christmas! Everyone wants to be real close to Jesus!”

It’s Christmas! Don’t be surprised that the animals were present at Jesus birth! And keep them close in your nativity! Creation is praising its Creator!

And don’t be surprised if you see a smile on a animal or two on Christmas day!

Why Christmas?

But your iniquities have separated you from your God, your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. Isaiah 59:2 NIV

Why do we need Christmas? Have you ever thought about that question? Probably not! If the truth be known, you, like me, are just so busy “doing” Christmas, and enjoying it to, that you haven’t stopped to consider the reason for the celebration.

Now, I am not talking about the “reason for the season”. You have no doubt seen and heard that. People have been wearing pins with that on it for two weeks and you know that it is to celebrate the birth of a Savior, but why did He need to be born?

Here’s why: (and, please, don’t miss this point this Christmas season) We need Christmas because with out it we are going to Hell! Now you’re thinking, “what does Hell have to do with Christmas?”.

Without Christmas, without the baby in a manger, the virgin birth, the shepherds in the field at night, the presents wrapped, the bills to be paid, the parties to attend, the expanded waistline….okay…you get the idea….without all the neat things that make Christmas what Christmas is, we would be eternally lost. See, all of us are lost, without hope, because we all have sin in our life. We are born into sin and can do nothing to rid ourselves of the sin habit.

God is Holy, as you know, and so He cannot tolerate any sin. None! He will not hear us through our sin and so, if we remain in our sin, we remain forever separated from God.

But then there is Christmas, Praise God! Jesus did come on that dark night some 2000 years ago! He came so that through Him we can be saved, completely forgiven of our sins, and enter the presence of a Holy God!

There is a Christmas! We need Christmas! Thank God for Christmas today!

A New Christmas Image

I love to study the images of Christmas. This year a new image came to me; one I had not considered before, which really is the combination of two images I have studied many times.

 

Image One:

 

Luke 2:7 says, “and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” 

 

There was no room for them in the Bethlehem hotel.  This fact often reminds me that sometimes my life is too “crowded” for Christ.  I have great intentions for my relationship with Him, but often I choose my “pleasures” over time with Him.  Sad to admit, but if I am honest, and you were to look at my schedule many days, it could be said of me that I have “no room” for Christ. 

 

Image Two:

 

Luke 2:8-9 says, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” 

 

The shepherds remind me that God first appeared with the news of His Son to those who society considered outcasts.  I have read that the courts refused shepherds testimonies in a court of law because they considered them untrustworthy. Shepherds appeared at the bottom of the social status, but they made themselves available to the Christ child.  It reminds me that although I have needed more grace than most pastors His grace is fully available even to me! 

 

Image Three:

 

I have never combined the above two images.  Think about this for a moment.  The fact that the inn had no room may have been necessary in order for the shepherds to receive the announcement.  Imagine if there had been room in the inn.  The shepherds would not have been able to visit the Christ child.  They would have had to find a place to take a bath, change clothes, and probably change their occupation if they had a hope of seeing Him. As shepherds, they would have been welcome in a barn, but not in the Bethlehem “Hyatt”.   

 

It is a great reminder to me this Christmas that God comes to those who do not deserve His presence or His love.  Immanuel presents Himself in places the “good people” never go!  He loves people the world has rejected and He makes Himself available without regard to our background, our reputation, the gossip about us, or even our smelliness. 

 

This year I am more thankful than ever that there was “no room for them in the inn.”

Poor Little Baby Jesus

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

Heaven: Streets of Gold! Angels Rejoicing! No Tears! Perfect Harmony! Bright Morning Star! Love Abounds! Mansions of Glory! No Pain! Everlasting Joy! Heavenly Father! Peace! Comfort! Victory! Sweet Fragrance! Warmth!

Bethlehem: cold. dark. crying. no blanket. no room. animal smells. struggles of life. heartaches. temptation. work. strife. bitterness. envy. prejudice. hatred. murder. anger. lust. sin.

Jesus gave up the wealth of Heaven and all its benefits to come to a world that had basically rejected its Creator, so that you and I, though lost in our sin, separated from Him because of our poverty of iniquities, can experience the richness of Eternity with Him in Heaven. Jesus gave up everything. He literally became sin so that we could receive forgiveness from the sin we cast upon His back.

You will no doubt see a nativity scene this Christmas. Go over to it, paying careful attention to the Christ child. Try to picture that baby some 2000 years ago lying in that cold, dark manger, realizing what Heaven had lost for Bethlehem to gain a Savior.

He became poor so that we could become rich. Your inheritance is waiting. Jesus paid it all! The reading of the will happen soon. Are you in it?

Poems by Ann Weems for Christmas

I have read these two poems numerous times in devotionals and online.  I have never seen a copyright on them, but they are attributed to Ann Weems.  The story I have heard is that she is a minister’s wife who lost her son to murder though I could not confirm that online.  Her poems speak, however, to the heart many feel this time of year as they attempt to celebrate Christmas with a heavy heart.  Perhaps she expresses your heart too. 

Yesterday’s Pain

In the godforsaken, obscene quicksand of life,
there is a deafening alleluia
rising from the souls of those who weep,
and of those who weep with those who weep.
If you watch, you will see
the hand of God
putting the stars back in their skies
one by one
Yesterday’s Pain
Some of us walk in Advent
tethered to our unresolved yesterdays
the pain still stabbing
the hurt still throbbing.
It’s not that we don’t know better;
it’s just that we can’t stand up anymore by ourselves.
On the way of Bethlehem, will you give us a hand?


Not celebrate?
Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?
Not celebrate?
You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you.

Sober Reminders

I have a great life.  I have had years of struggles, which have greatly shaped the person I am today, but these days life is fairly calm and I hate to complain even when I am having a “bad” day.  In a church our size, there are always “sober reminders” to keep me grounded.  One would think I would become callous to disappointing news after hearing so much of it each week, but some things will always leave me speechless.  In those times, I learn more about the reality of life.  Other people’s struggles remind me how desperate each of us is for God’s mercy and grace and how incredibly blessed my life is right now.   

 

There are things that no matter how many times I hear them always take me by surprise.  Things like:   

 

  • When I learn a wife is leaving her husband for another man, it reminds me that what we see in couples does not always represent the reality of what takes place in the privacy of their home. 

 

  • When I hear that a young father received an unexpected stage 4 cancer diagnosis, it reminds me that life is fragile and family time has great value. 

 

  • When I sign another military “notification in case of tragedy” form indicating that I have to bring “bad news” should something happen to the solider, it reminds me that others serve our country so that my family and I can be safe and worship freely. 

 

  • When another teenage daughter becomes pregnant, it reminds me how much pressure is on our teens today and how desperately she needs our love and direction for life. 

 

  • When a mother or father loses their job, it reminds me that their biggest concern this Christmas is not what to buy but how will they buy anything.

 

  • When I find out the reason a couple has been married for years, but does not have children is infertility, I am reminded that there is a pain in a couple’s heart that I will never quite understand. 

 

  • When I talk with a family who has lost a child to tragedy, it reminds me that some pain in life never completely goes away. 

 

At Christmastime, “sober reminders” always help me remember that Jesus came to those who are hurting, those down in heart, and those in need of a Savior.  

Situational Evangelism

Sometimes sharing your faith with them is a matter of helping them understand their circumstances in light of God’s plans and desires for their life.  If you can connect the two points, a relationship with God makes much more sense. 
 
Recently I received this email from an Internet friend through my devotional ministry (http://www.mustardseedministry.com).   My friend knows how to share her faith, but the situation appears so desperate it has her in quandary of where to begin.  (I have changed the names and deleted a few details to protect identities, but the crux of the story is the same.)
  
Dear Ron,
I need some advice.  I have a friend who has a daughter who lives about 600 mi. away from her, but she is involved in drugs.  My friend (Joan) and her husband are in the process of adopting her three grandsons (all under the age of 8 year old) due to the daughter’s inability to care for them. Joan doesn’t have a relationship with the Lord.  I have a feeling that she has some tough feelings right now.  I really want to bring her to the Lord, but I’m at a loss for some reason right now.  She is in so much pain and she misses her daughter so much. I need ideas on how to share and communicate God’s love to Joan. Thanks so much. 
Patricia
  
Dear Patricia
It will take boldness on your part Patricia, but the fact that God has placed her on your heart so strongly is probably God’s invitation for you to share your faith with her, so I would encourage you to act on it, as scary as it might be. Scripture is clear that when we speak on His behalf He gives us words to say.
   
I would probably approach Joan in terms of a relationship. She loves her daughter in spite of the fact that she is addicted to drugs. She loves those three grandsons. Joan’s heart hurts for her daughter and she would like nothing more than a renewed relationship with her, but the drugs are in the way. They are “separated” 400 miles by distance, but even farther because of the impact. the drugs have on her life. It’s sad, which is why you are concerned for her. 
  
Now take Joan’s situation and put it into context of her relationship with God. God feels the same way about Joan. He loves her. He wants a relationship with her, but Joan’s sins have separated her from a relationship with God. If she will only believe in Christ’s saving grace she can have the relationship with God she needs; now more than ever.

 
God bless you as you introduce your friend to Christ.
Ron
  
If God stirs your heart concerning someone near you who is absent of a relationship with Him, be bold and willing to share your faith. Put it into terms of a relationship, then trust God to give you the right words to say. 

Allowing Children to Explore Their Own Faith

I want to encourage you to release your children to explore their own faith.  Okay, that sounds very liberal.  I apologize, but let me explain. I hope your children have a solid faith in the one true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I would make that a part of daily prayer and intentionally lead them towards that reality for their own life.  The truth, however, is that your children are some day going to question their faith.  At some point in life, most people I know have questioned whether what they have always believed is true. My encouragement is to let some of that process occur while your children still live in your home or under your authority. 

 

With that in mind, here are five quick suggestions to consider to spur a life-long faith and to allow your children to explore their faith:

 

1.      When children are very young, set the stage for them spiritually with what you think is best for them.  For example, if church is important, and I think it is, then do not let a 2 year old determine whether you go to church.  Take them to church on a regular basis so it becomes a natural part of who they are as individuals.

2.      At the same time, let the children’s needs play a part in deciding what church to attend.  As tough as it may be on grandparents not to have their grandchildren in the same church, it would be better to have your children actually love their church experience than to attend somewhere they do not enjoy going. 

3.      Find opportunities to talk about faith and God in non-threatening, everyday environments.  Talk about God should never be limited to “church time”.  Make God part of your normal life.  (He is you know!) Model living a life for Christ in front of your child.

4.      As a child, having been raised in church and heard all the “stories”, attempts to explore his own faith, do not feel the pressure to answer every question they have.  If children are seeking truth, guide them towards the source of truth (God’s Word) and let them explore it for themselves.  This is the only way to make sure your children actually “own” their faith.  When one of my boys was questioning eternal security, for example, I suggested he read the conflicting passages on the subject and encouraged him to reach his own conclusion.  (He did, btw, and landed in the same place I land.) 

5.      Keep the lines of communication open even when your children are questioning what they believe.  I have known so many parents who “freak” when their children express opinions about their faith that are contrary to their parents.  I have never seen this reaction work to their favor.  It usually causes further separation between the child and the parent.  This is where I believe Proverbs 22:6 (Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.) comes into play.  Parent towards Christ early in your child’s life, release them to explore, keep praying for them and loving them, and the principle in Proverbs is that they will return to their roots in time. 

 

Children are going to question their faith someday.  Any faith worth having involves periods of testing over time.  Chances are good that you questioned your faith at some point.  Allow your children to test their faith in God, but pray it happens while they are still in your home or listening to your counsel so you will be there to help them find their way Home again.