It was not a failure, though I thought it was at the time.

It was not a failure.

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I’ve been dealing with my own feelings of failure for a while now. Have you ever felt that way? I read this story this week, and I poured tears as I contemplated my own “failure.”

There was this man. He was from out-of-town. He wanted to teach people about Jesus. That landed him in prison, and not just prison. First, he was stripped and beaten, and then they put him in prison.
He got out though.
And then you know what he said about that trip? He said, “It was not a failure.”

Public humiliation. Beaten! Imprisoned!

That was not a failure?? He was basically chased out of town. He can’t go back there.

But that man was Paul, and that town was Philippi. You can read more about that story in Acts 16:16-25 and 1 Thessalonians 2, all of chapter 2.

“You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.”    1 Thessalonians 2:1-2

It was not a failure because they STILL did share the gospel, as they set out to do. When we tell people the good news, that Jesus loves ALL of us and wants to save and be a friend to ALL of us, we aren’t responsible for how people respond to that. That doesn’t mean be a jerk and don’t care. That means don’t be obnoxious. Share it, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

Public disgrace does not equal failure.

Things not ending as planned does not mean we failed.

Being physically destroyed is not failure. It’s not.

You are not a failure either. Think of your most recent failure, and then consider. What did you learn? What good came out of that?


I was reading about all of these things in Children of the Day, by Beth Moore. It takes books like these to help me understand things like Acts 16 being tied to 1 Thessalonians. Believe me, I’d never figure that out on my own. Every single Beth Moore Bible study workbook I have ever read has been a massive blessing to me.

This one is no exception. She just HAD to go and ask us what our most recent failure is. She left a little blank space for us to write about it. Ha! I got out my spiral notebook and filled up a whole PAGE.

I wrote, and I thought, and I cried, and I prayed, and in the end I was reminded.

“Though a righteous man falls 7 times, he will get up, but the wicked will stumble into ruin.”  Proverbs 24:16

Failure stings when it’s something that means the world to you. It stings like getting stung by a HIVE OF BEES  or 50 fire ants.

I set out to home school those two years with two objectives:

  1. I wanted to give them that one-on-one boost with their academics.
  2. I wanted to improve their character. No, I can’t improve it myself, but I wanted to promote it. I wanted to provide the right environment and the right tools for the boys and God to work that out.

I was not able to accomplish what I wanted, academically, and to make it worse trying to be a teacher, homemaker, blogger, and mom all at once made me MISERABLE. It was heart-breaking. Even as I write about it again, it’s like my heart is all ripped up and bleeding. I want to pound my fists to the wall and then lay my head against it and cry until there’s no water left because no matter how hard I tried, everything felt like failure.

I love these children with such intensity, I want to fix every single problem that they have, but that’s not possible, is it? The ability to fix everything was so far beyond my control.

So I failed. Or so I thought. But you know what? I did not fail. They didn’t fail either. Nothing failed. There was nothing wasted here.

In those two years, I saw their character bloom. I saw love, humility, honesty, justice, kindness, and goodness in my boys.

Caleb was saved and baptized, of his free choosing during that time at home with me. I even heard him teaching his friends about Jesus.

There was spiritual warfare waged over the souls of my children those two years, and God won.

I grew to understand the boys’ strengths and weaknesses. I came to terms with my own limitations. We emerged a different family than when we went into this.

I failed in some ways in order to learn. Sometimes we have to fall to learn, to grow, to become.

We saw it happen with my children too. We watched them overcome the kind of adversity that would have CRUSHED me at their age. I would not have handled it with the strength, dignity, and courage that I watched my son display.

That’s not actually failure is it? But it sure feels like it when you’re laying in a wad on the ground.

So no, we have not failed. We have only fallen and gotten back up again, and we too shared the gospel in the process.

All of these thoughts led me to this song, and I can’t get it out of my head. Its “fall down and get back up” message resonated with me. Yes, we are trying EVERYTHING. It’s a fun song, and my favorite line is this one:

“Birds don’t just fly. They fall down and get up.”

You’ll have to click the link below to go to YouTube to see the lyrics and hear this song. It’s worth it.

 

Ok. Your turn to answer Beth Moore’s heart-wrenching question. Failure. When did you last feel it?

“Ask yourself: Did we do the will of God as best we perceived it? Were we authentic before God and man?”    —Children of the Day, page 41, Beth Moore

And I would add, what did you learn? Then maybe it’s not such a failure after all, and even if it is, get back up again.

 

Why Cope When You Can Conquer?

I’ve been reading this book. It looks like this:

Why Cope When You Can Conquer?

 It’s an encouraging book. It asks an annoyingly high volume of questions. I never did enjoy answering questions. See, it’s a Bible study guide, but it’s not one of these where you have to watch a video or attend a class to go with it. You can totally just read the guide on your own. (But I did warn you about the questions.)

Don’t worry. The book is still worth it. You can’t read it without learning and growing in your faith. There’s this one particular story that struck a chord with me this week. It’s in Lesson 6: Where to Run in Trouble.

The author, Juanita Purcell, asked this: “When did the Israelites discover they had been delivered from Sennacherib’s invasion?” Read 2Kings 19:35

It was the morning. 

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Purcell said this, and she’s referring to a time when Senacherrib of Assyria was attacking Jerusalem in the 700sBC, “As the enemies gathered against the city of God, the nations were in an uproar. Yet the Angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night. This miraculous event was no big deal to God. He doesn’t even tell us how it happened. Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  (source 1, page 62)

So I had to dig into my Bible, into 2 Kings chapters 19 and 20 to remind myself what exactly was going on here.

Big surprise. Hezekiah was king. He’s my favorite king of Judah. This was the kingdom of Judah, not Israel. Israel did indeed fall to Assyria, but Judah (the southern kingdom) didn’t really. (They fell to Babylon later on, after Hezekiah.) This was because of leadership. They had Hezekiah, and Hezekiah had God.

This is what Hezekiah did when he found out that Assyria was coming for him. He prayed:

“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it….” (2 Kings 19:14)

Yep. He got a threat letter.

“Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord.”  2 Kings 19:14-15

It goes on to describe his prayer. But I mean, basically, “God, save us from these horrible people!!” I just love how the Bible tells us that Hezekiah spread the letter out before the Lord. He was a man who took his prayers seriously, so God took Hezekiah’s prayers seriously. King Hezekiah had great faith.

My take away here: “Trust in the Lord. He will solve your problems in your sleep.”

Oh, and you might be wondering how the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 soldiers while the  armies were sleeping. Historians speculate that it was a plague of mice, an outbreak of the Bubonic plague. *oooo eebidy jeebidies*

I don’t know what problems you might be facing today, but God will lead you to the answers that you NEED, if you ask him to. Have faith and trust in the Lord, and he will not let you down. He is trustworthy. I tried so many things this past year to figure out my health problems, and eventually I was actually able to overcome my chronic joint pain by simply dropping gluten from my diet. That was not a conclusion I ever suspected, but God answered my prayers through the advice of my doctors and my friends. Praise God!

why cope when you can conquer

Carmel Valley, photo by Janet

So have no fear. Trust in the Lord. He will solve your problems in your sleep.

sources:

1. Why Cope When You Can Conquer? by Juanita Purcell, published by RBP Women’s Studies, 1999

2. 2 Kings 19 and 20, The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan 

3. Wikipedia, Hezekiah

Studying Jesus in 2015

Nonna, sharing with us examples of gold, frankincence, and myrrh at Christmas.

Studying Jesus this year is something that has me just plum ecstatic! Last year I was in the Old Testament. I didn’t enjoy that much. I was like, “Oh yeah, I need to read my Bible today…” Some of the chapters were exciting, but once I hit Ezekiel, it wasn’t fun to me. I was just counting down the days until Matthew!!!

Bible study has been a passion of mine since I was in middle school. I don’t like taking other people’s word for something as complex as the Bible. I like to study it myself, as well as listen to excellent preachers and teachers who have had way more theological training than I have! 

Today I read Matthew 10. Here are a few things I learned from Halley’s Bible Handbook:

-“It took Jesus about a year and a half to complete his choice in disciples, and then they were with him about two years.”  (page 435)

– I guess I knew this, but I never really THOUGHT about it:  In Jesus’ day, there were no newspapers. The ONLY method he had to get his message out was word of mouth. Wow. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. 😉

– When the disciples began to follow Jesus, they were following him as POLITICIANS, because they thought Jesus came for an EARTHLY throne. They had no idea they were becoming preachers.  Haaaa!!  Jesus told them “kingdom of heaven” countless times, but I don’t think it sank in until he’d been crucified and resurrected!

IF they had realized that by following Jesus, they were in the process of becoming preachers, making history, and would one day also be martyred, do you think they would have followed Jesus so readily?

Maybe yes, maybe no, but that just goes to show we’re better off not knowing our futures…

-The disciples’ role was simply to tell the story of Jesus. I love that. I think of myself as a storyteller myself. I hope that I can learn to do a better job of telling the story of Jesus. (Jesus and his disciples also healed the sick and raised the dead as they went. Now that would be a great power to have!)

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Those were all points from Halley’s, but I want to add a couple thoughts. I love studying Jesus because he was the only man that never sinned. The rest of us, even the ones that think they are starch-clean-perfect, sin probably every hour.

This was my favorite set of verses from chapter 10. This sums up to me the GREAT LOVE of Jesus. Not one of us, even our greatest heroes, will ever “arrive” at perfection. Even once we accept Jesus, we must always seek his forgiveness and rely on his grace:

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”    Matthew 10:32-33

Who will go on to DENY Jesus THREE times?

Peter.

And do you believe that Jesus will deny Peter before God in heaven? No, no, he will not, and that is why you cannot take out one verse from the Bible and try to build your theology around it. This is not a contradiction at all. This is called taking the Bible and understanding it as a whole, rather than thinking you can isolate a few words and say that they are contradictory.

Peter was the most famous of the disciples. Jesus said of Peter, “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Matthew 16:18.

Peter was forgiven of this sin that he had committed. We all sin.  We all need Jesus.

To me this is just another example of the amazing love of God. God knows what we are, and he LOVES us. He will never twist our arm to come to him, but if we seek him, we will find him.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not thereofore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:29-30