Maybe you feel like a failure in the Kingdom of God. But if you’re still walking behind Jesus day after day, you’re not a failure. To succeed in God’s Kingdom you need to do only one thing: get behind Jesus and stay there.
If you’ve walked away from Him, and you feel like a failure, you only need to do one thing to become a success again: get behind Jesus and stay there.
The disciples followed Jesus around for 3 years before He ascended to heaven. And after His ascension they were filled with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was alive, did they get everything right? Did they fulfill His will perfectly every time? No. When they received the Holy Spirit, did they always perfectly hear His voice and put action behind His words? No. But they succeeded because they never stopped trying. They never walked away. They got behind Jesus and stayed there.
In Mark 4, when the storm arose and Jesus slept and the disciples thought they would die He said to them:
Mark 4:40 He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’
They messed up. Their faith was lacking. Did Jesus write them off? Tell them to find a new Rabbi to follow? Go out looking for new disciples? No. He didn’t because they weren’t failures. And they weren’t failures because they were still following Jesus.
Nor did He kick them to the curb in Matthew 17 when they were unable to heal the afflicted boy.
Matthew 17:16 “I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
Even after Jesus ascended into Heaven and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter still messed up.
Galatians 2:11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.
Can I let you in on a little secret? They were human. *Gasp* And, you know what else? You are too. *Gasp, Gasp*
Humans make mistakes. It’s what we’re most famous for. And, believe it or not, God knows that.
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
Sunday morning, I stood alone praying. I poured my heart out to the Lord. I told Him that I felt like such a failure and I felt so lost. That’s when I felt the overwhelming feeling inside, that I was not a failure because I was still showing up. Yes, I’d made mistakes. And, yes, I’ll make more mistakes in the future. But I’m gonna keep showing up. I’m gonna keep trying to see the face of my Lord. And as long as I’m doing that, I’m not a failure.
PLEASE READ EVERY SINGLE WORD OF THE FOLLOWING SCRIPTURE. BECAUSE IF YOU HAVE READ THIS FAR, YOU NEED TO READ THIS TOO.
31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?
36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)
37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that NOTHING can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If we live by the standards of this world, then, yes, we are all failures! So thank God that failures are His favorite kind of people!!
1 Corinthians 1:27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.
The heroes of our faith, the patriarchs that we look to in the scriptures for guidance, they all have their faults on full display for all to see. No humiliating detail was spared in scripture. The message we should see staring us right in the face when we look into the scripture is this: God uses the losers, the bastards, the orphans and the whores because He loves them and they love Him back. The world sees them as failures. They see themselves as failures. But God says, “Keep showing up. That’s all I ask.”
16 Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. 17 When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ 18 But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’20 Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
21 “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ 23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. 24 For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”
God’s recipe for success in His Kingdom: SHOW UP.
I don’t know, but I think I can do at least that.
I can’t stand having my hair in my face. It’s either in a ponytail or pulled back in a clip or tucked behind my ears. It’s almost an involuntary obsession. I don’t even realize I’m fussing with it most of the time.
Just now I was annoyed by my hair again. I thought about grabbing the ponytail holder I’ve been using for the last few days but decided against it. I picked through the basket holding all my hair accoutrements looking for a perfect pony. I picked several up and stretched them out, testing the tension in their elastic finally settling on one. And as I pulled my hair up into a ponytail I realized that the perfect pony for me is also a perfect metaphor for some aspects of the Christian life.
So let me tell you about my perfect ponytail holder and maybe you’ll see what I see, that we should all be weak ponies.
I have a lot of hair. It’s something I think most women want and I have to admit it’s always made it easy to do a lot of different hairstyles with my mop. But several years ago I was in a small car accident. The car I was in was rear-ended and I suffered whiplash. I’ve had to see chiropractors on and off for years because of it. Suddenly having a lot of hair wasn’t such an asset. Just about any hairstyle can easily cause a tension headache and bring on neck pain or worse, a migraine. I have to be pretty careful what I use in my hair.
My favorite hairstyle for comfort is easily a ponytail. It’s also the hairstyle that can most easily cause a tension headache. So for me, when choosing a ponytail holder I have to look for some very specific qualities.
A) I prefer the larger sized ponies because they hold more hair. And I have a lot of hair.
B) I use thicker ponytail holders. They tend to last longer and I’m pretty hard on my ponies. Even though I use the larger size, they can get stretched out quickly.
C) I need a weak pony. I want one that has a lot of give but doesn’t feel like it will snap when I stretch it. If the elastic is too strong I’ll get a headache. BUT if it’s too weak I’ll break it.
Okay, you’re thinking, what’s the metaphor, Bonnie? I mean, it seems like you’re kind of just rambling about hair and ponytail holders. And for some reason you keep calling them ponies.
Yes, I am rambling. It’s what I’m good at, so try to keep up.
A) I can’t use a small ponytail. They don’t hold enough hair. I have to be able to wrap the pony around the tail at least 3 times or it won’t hold. Twice is not enough. Four times causes headaches. Three. It’s my prime number, baby. Therefore, I cannot use a small pony.
Don’t be small. Don’t be small minded. Keep yourself open to the possibility that you are wrong.
6 But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
When James told us to “resist the devil and he will flee”, he was talking about pride. Pride is Satan’s main thang. He loves it when we’re full of pride. It’s how he ensnared Adam and Eve. It’s the way he tried AND FAILED to tempt Jesus in the desert. Pride keeps us thinking we’re right and closes our minds causing us to be SMALL.
But here’s the truth, whether you want to hear it or not: YOU’RE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT.
I know far too many people, Christians or otherwise, who always believe they are right. They will argue against every point you make and, in general, are not open to any ideas that did not originate in their own minds. They are small minded because they are not open to the possibility that they are wrong. Their pride won’t allow it. They’re small.
Don’t be small.
B) I can’t use a thin pony. I used to love them because they can be quite stretchy but they break too easily. And nothing annoys me more than a pony that snaps while I’m pulling up my hair.
Don’t be thin. Don’t be thin skinned and easily offended.
33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Believe it or not, being easily offended goes right back to pride. I hate to say it but a lot of our struggles in life stem from our pride. Pride tells us that everyone should be okay with us because we’re good people and we’re likable. But the truth is, no matter how “likable” we may be, haterz gon’ hate. We WILL face persecution. Our hearts will DEFINITELY come under attack. We WILL be hurt.
And if we spend a little time examining ourselves and losing a little of our pride, we might not like what we see so much. We might see that we’ve hurt people, we’ve been unlikable, maybe even a giant buttface. I’ve definitely been a giant buttface more than my fair share of times. If I’m thin skinned, all I can see or feel is my own hurt, my own wound. But when I get a thicker skin, I’m able to see that I’ve hurt others, I need to stop being offended and do my best to make things right.
Every argument has 2 sides. And unless you’re dealing with an actual psychopath, there’s every reason to believe that you hurt them just as much as they hurt you. If we only see and feel our own hurt, we don’t stand much of a chance of reconciliation. We have to get a thicker skin and man up.
Don’t be thin.
C) I can’t use a strong pony. If the elastic is too strong I’ll definitely get a headache. I need one that is malleable, pliable, easily manipulated. I need a pony I can bend to my will. (Insert evil laughter here.)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
27 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. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29
You probably know what I’m going to type here before I even type it. Pride. It’s pride again, y’all. Pride, PRIDE, pride, pride. Pride.
When we first came to Jesus, we knew we were a broken mess. We acknowledged our lowly state and confessed that we were sinners. In the early years of our Christian walk, we stumbled at times, fell back into old patterns of sin and had to run back to the arms of Jesus once again. But as the years went by, it became easier to say no to sin. It became easier to look and act like a saint instead of a sinner. And there can be only 2 reasons we got that good. One: we spent time with the Holy Spirit, we sought out Jesus and His spirit guided us, shaping us as a potter shapes the clay. Or, two: our longing to fit into the Christian dynamic drove us to change our behavior until we looked like a Christian is “supposed” to look. I think for most people, it’s a little bit of both.
At any rate, once we’ve gotten through the messy stages of our early Christian walk, it can become all too easy to begin seeing ourselves as strong individuals. We stop seeing the brokenness in ourselves because we no longer give in to the sin that so easily beset us before. But that strength we see in ourselves is a lie. It’s only our pride flaring up again and holding us back. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. How then can he make his power perfect in us if we do not have weakness? The answer is, he can’t.
Strength is not strength. It is weakness. Weakness is strength.
Acknowledging our weakness before God means we are dropping that wall of pride that keeps God from us. Because pride is a wall, my friends, and don’t ever think any differently.
Rich Mullins said it best when he said, “We are not as strong as we think we are.”
Dear friends, don’t be strong.
Be a weak pony. God can use a weak pony.
Oh, and by the way, when I do find a ponytail holder that has the perfect amount of tension, when I find one that is weak but doesn’t break – I care for it, protecting it, using it gently so that it lasts. I keep it with me and even bring back up ponies so that if anyone asks to borrow a ponytail holder from me, I won’t have to give up that perfect pony.
When we drop our pride, opening our minds, not letting ourselves become easily offended and acknowledging our weakness, we’re placing ourselves firmly in God’s loving hands and trusting him to care for us.
When we cling to our pride, staying small minded, insisting we’re right, becoming offended when someone doesn’t agree with us, forgetting that we are wicked, broken creatures, we’re putting up a wall of pride and essentially uninviting God to the party.
Be a weak pony. Let God care for you.
I missed church again this morning. My poor children have had the worst experiences with allergies this summer. Not to be too crass but I’ve decided to dub this the “Summer of Puke”. It’s been… BAD. So. Bad. So I took my eldest to Urgent Care because she was amazingly sick this morning. She is doing much better now but I still missed church again.
That being said, I did get to hear all about church later from my husband, Nick. I definitely missed out on some good stuff this morning. Nick posted this pic from the service on FB with the caption: “We’re all dancing on broken bones.”
He was quoting Bob Bretsch, who was quoting Psalm 51:8 – “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.”
Psalm 51 is a well-known and much quoted psalm. It’s beautiful and inspiring and if you haven’t read it lately, go take the time.
Anyway, as I went about my day, I just couldn’t get those words out of my mind, “We’re all dancing on broken bones.” For some reason I identify with them so much. Maybe because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the battles we are all waging inwardly. Thinking how many of us are engaged in a war we don’t even know about.
And so with spiritual violence on my mind, Psalm 51 in my hand, and those poignant words on my lips, I sat down at the piano and wrote a new song. The song is called “Broken Bones”. (Per usual, I quickly recorded it with my phone sooooo… that explains the quality of the recording. You’re welcome?)
4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.
This morning while I was meditating, I started thinking about reconciliation. I remembered when Peter cut off the ear of the temple guard in the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus reached out and healed the guard. Do you know what Jesus didn’t do? He didn’t make Peter apologize.
I had to think about that. I know that Jesus preached on reconciliation. I know the verses because I’ve read them many times. “Blessed are the peacemakers…” “If you know someone has ought against you leave your gift at the altar and go and be reconciled…” “If someone has sinned against you, go and talk with them about it…” I’m paraphrasing right now because I’m in a hurry and don’t want to go look up the verses. “Peacemakers” is Matthew 5, can’t remember exactly where “leave your gift” is and “sinned against you” is Matthew 18 I believe (or maybe it’s 15). Anyway, if you want to read them yourself, I encourage you to go look it up.
So for 3 years, Jesus preached on a lot of stuff and Peter probably heard most or all of it but these parts on reconciliation seemed to get overlooked after he cuts off the poor guy’s ear. But then later on after he has denied Jesus 3 times, Jesus sits down with him and 3 times asks Peter, “Do you love me?” giving Peter a chance to reconcile with Jesus.
That got me thinking about my own views on Christian reconciliation. I’ve kind of always viewed it as somewhat mandatory. As if the things that Jesus preached about were the New Ten Commandments. As if you could go through the New Testament and make a list of do’s and don’ts based solely off what Jesus said or the disciples wrote.
And then that got me thinking about the Old Ten Commandments and the fact that people seem to just want a list of do’s and don’ts to follow no matter what century you’re in or what you believe. Even people you may deem as having no sense of right and wrong, they also have a list of do’s and don’ts in their head somewhere. Do’s and Don’ts seem to be what humanity wants. Look at any major world religion or any business or organization. There is always a list. Always a line. The lists and lines vary from religion to religion and culture to culture but they are always there.
So that brings me back to Peter in the Garden. If reconciliation is a “do”, why didn’t Jesus make him do it? Why didn’t they hug it out? Maybe later in life Peter and the guard crossed each other’s paths again and they talked it out and made things right but if that happened, it’s not recorded anywhere.
In John 3, Jesus said that those who follow the Spirit are like the wind, you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. Could it be that God never wanted to give us a list of do’s and don’ts but that way back in the Garden of Eden, when Eve and Adam saw that they could follow a clearly defined list of do’s and don’ts (albeit an internal one) and they would no longer have to rely on God’s constant guidance, that they jumped at the chance? Could it be that God has always desired to be our guide in life, following the Spirit like the wind, and that he never intended a “one size fits all” remedy to life’s situations? Isn’t this why He sent the Holy Spirit?
Maybe it’s time I stopped focusing so hard on trying to do what is right and avoid what is wrong and, instead, focused hard on following the Spirit of the Living God. After all, if Jesus didn’t jump Peter’s case for not “reconciling” with the temple guard and let that one slide, maybe He’s not keeping a tally of everything I do and don’t do. Maybe “judgment” looks a lot different than I’ve always been taught.
It’s the curse of the Garden that makes us crave a “list” so that we can be “right with God” without having to actually engage with Him. I mean, if He just gives us a list then we can accomplish what He wants without His help, right? That is the curse of the Garden, desiring to live and be “righteous” without God. And it really doesn’t matter what culture you come from or whether or not you’re an atheist or a Catholic priest or a follower of Zorg. Even devout Christians, pastors, priests, rabbis, etc., struggle with this desire. The “just give me a list” desire or the desire to do it on our own, in our own strength, without help. Religious people get their list from the tenets of their faith. Atheists derive their list from their own internal voice and the culture they identify with. But no matter what, we all have a list.
I think it’s actually harder to abandon our lists and try to follow the leading and guidance of God than to live by those lists. But I see (at least I hope I see) that God’s intention for our lives is to abandon these lists and follow Him. Do I mean throw out the Bible? No! I just mean, especially for myself, that I have to stop looking at the Bible as rules to obey, as a list of do’s and don’ts to follow. I have to see that Jesus wants me to seek Him and not to try to live “a righteous life” because if I’m following Him, and He’s a righteous God, then I WILL live a righteous life just not one of my own misguided making.
I have to sign off now because I have a lot to do. And to be honest I’m not gonna proofread this before I post it because I don’t want to. If you find any glaring spelling/grammar mistakes, feel free to comment and I’ll fix them later.
P.S. The short story I started a few weeks ago is still being written, I have not abandoned it.
It would be hard for me to explain why this meant so much to me without telling you a lot of our personal history and I don’t think I want to do that… But it is still an amazing read for any Christian.
If you don’t own a copy of My Utmost for His Highest, I highly recommend getting one or downloading the phone app or having both the book and the phone app, like me. Be forewarned, however, there is more than one version. The original version written in the early 1900’s (1911-1917) and an updated version that puts Mr. Chambers old timey speech into more modern language. I personally prefer the original old timey one because I think the way Mr. Chambers phrases things is poetic and makes me think. Also, I’m secretly 103 and kindly request that you get off my lawn, you dang kids.
Anyway… go read it. HashtagGoodStuff
Basically… I’m trying to work through this feeling – the feeling that I am evil. The feeling that I am a bad person. Like at my core. I don’t just do “bad” things, no, deeper than that. I am weird, crude, strange, foolish, socially inept, and a lot more junk.
It’s a pretty pervasive feeling inside of me right now. It’s like suddenly a flood light has come on and I’m seeing all of my flaws with stark, blinding clarity. And it’s no fun.
I’m not trying to bum you out or get sympathy. I’m not looking for praise or encouragement. Because even though these feelings keep erupting in me at the most inconvenient of times of late, they are almost always followed by a whisper from my loving Father, that I am loved.
But as my good friend, Austin Crooks, likes to quote, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
We all suck but God loves us anyways. That’s the message of the gospel. Brennan Manning is famous for saying that God loves us as we are and not as we should be because no one is as they should be. And I need to hear that right now. I need to feel that right now. Yes, I’m no good, but God loves me.
It’s true that I’m a big mess. It’s true that I’m weird and strange. I overshare. I gossip even when I’m trying not to. I lie. I’m lazy. I’m crude. I enjoy things that I really shouldn’t. But God still loves me. I don’t know how or why. I just know that he does and I need it. Oh, how I need it.
I hope and pray that people around me can see that I’m a work in progress and even though I’m a mess, I really don’t want to be. Even though I’m a jerk, I love God and want him to change me. I hope people can see that, because I’m sure it’s not obvious. I’m sure my pride is what shines brightest. I’m positive that, at times, I seem like the most arrogant, butt that has ever existed. And at times, I am.
This morning, in the midst of feeling broken, God used a very unlikely source to remind me that, “He heals the broken-hearted, and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3.
What an amazing God I love! Here I am, feeling so broken because I know that I’m a huge butt, and He reaches down and tells me He loves me. He’s not looking at me saying, “You’re right, Bonnie, you are a butt. Now, repent so I can fix you.” Instead, He’s saying, “Shh, shh, shh. It’s ok, sweetie. I love you. Just put your head on my shoulder and cry it out, I’ll hold you.”
As the one and only Toby Flenderson said in a moment of joy, “I’m gonna chase that feeling.” I’m gonna chase that feeling too, that God loves me as I am right now, not as I should be and it’s gonna be ok.