Privilege in Making the Same Painful Mistakes?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
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There’s also the expression about beating your head against a wall – trying over and over again, bloodying yourself with meager results.

Most humans know what it feels like to be your own worst enemy. To wish that you could quit making the same mistakes over and over, and over, and over and over…

It hurts, it’s embarrassing. I speak from experience – most notably with my eating disorder. I went over and over again to counselors and heard the same things. I swore over and over that I’d eat “tomorrow” and then failed. I was inpatient three different times and then fell flat on my face within a couple years of discharge.

Failure is painful.

In a more modern day example, I have tried over and over for years to say yes to every invitation, every need; to never alienate anyone. I have tried to please so many people that, as the saying goes, I please no one. Then, I’m hurt, I’ve angered others and I’m embarrassed and lonely. And I do it again.

And it hurts.

Not only do I make the same mistakes, but I have often noticed that God has to repeat himself to me. He is practically hammering me over the head or writing words in the sky before I finally pay attention and respond, “Oh, you mean ME?”

I was comforted in my foibles recently during a character study on the life of the apostle Peter. Not excused, certainly, but comforted that Jesus still wanted to hang out with Peter. Comforted that on the other side of painful, embarrassing mistakes, Jesus still valued Peter’s friendship and found him useful for the advancement of his kingdom. Jesus loved Peter even though he had to tell him and teach him the same things multiple times. In fact, after being loved through so many screw ups, I wager that a privilege of his pain was that Peter understood and trusted Jesus’ love more than ever before.

1. Jesus trumped Peter as a fisherman more than once. The first is mentioned in Luke 5:1-11, when Jesus first called his disciples. Peter and his companions had fished all night without a single catch. Suddenly, this stranger showed up, stepped into Peter’s boat and started preaching to the crowd on the shore. Finally, he turned to Peter and said, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Reluctantly, Peter did and to his surprise hauled in such a large number of fish that the nets began to break.

This scenario repeated itself almost perfectly at the end of Jesus’ time on earth. In John 21, Jesus stood on the shore, looking out toward his weary, fish-less disciples. When they recognized him, he told them again to put down their nets one more time. Again, their Lord filled their nets to the point of breaking.

2. Peter was emphatically in love with Jesus and just a little impulsive. Matthew 14:22-23 is the story of Jesus walking on the water, approaching the boat where his weary disciples were battling against a rising storm. When Peter recognized Jesus, he tossed all caution to the wind, stepped out on the water and began walking toward Jesus. (There was that little matter of fear that had him drowning a few seconds later, but Jesus scooped him up just in time.)

The second time was again in John 21, one of the final times that the disciples saw bodily Jesus. Bold, audacious Peter saw Jesus standing on the sand and abandoned his fellow fishermen. This time he didn’t even consider walking and he had no time to entertain fear. He swam madly for shore, to Jesus (and a hot breakfast).

3. The third occasion I’m considering here, wasn’t beside the sea, but next to the flames of a warm, cooking fire. Jesus was bound and surrounded by a crowd of condemning, self-righteous Jewish leaders. At a distance, Peter warmed himself by a fire as he watched the terrible proceedings. Fear got the best of Peter again. Three times that night, in the flickering shadows, he swore that he had never met Jesus, let alone been a follower.

Jesus redeemed that night, once again beside a cook fire. He was serving his disciples a breakfast of roasted fish and toast. As they rested, full and in good company, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Emphatic, boisterous, indomitable Peter took the invitation to declare three times that he loved the Lord.

Making the same mistakes twice hurts. Often it hurts us physically, and it always hurts our pride. But since there’s no way to completely evade the pain of mistakes and the consequences of sins – isn’t it worth looking for the eventual beauty? Isn’t it wonderful to look at the redeeming love of Jesus over each failure? Would we ever know how good God is, if we didn’t make, repeat, live through and grow from painful mistakes?

Under Fire On Facebook

Who knew the dangerous tendrils of Facebook? It’s no surprise that Facebook has been related to a plethora of illegal activity in the United States.  Last year, I must have read a dozen surveys in women’s magazines asking, “Would you let your ‘tween’ have a Facebook page?”

But these infractions seem ridiculously small when compared the true story of a young Coptic Christian in Egypt who was arrested, convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for something he posted on Facebook. [from: persecutionblog.com] His home and those of four other friends and relatives were torched.

“For a Muslim to stand on a street corner and say bad things against Christianity, or even to broadcast them on the radio, on the television, on their Facebook page or whatever — that would go without punishment. But this Christian, who has been accused of posting something that was offensive to Muslims on his Facebook page, is now sentenced to three years in prison for insulting Islam.” Todd Nettleton

This story insists that we teach our children the absolute value, the death-worthy value of our faith. Few adults know and live by this truth:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.a Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” Hebrews 12:1-3

It’s time that changed. Let’s start with this generation.

Day Two: Is It Good To Go Beyond The Basics?

In a novel, it’s important to start the story with a “hook,” a a sharp, compelling lead that insists the reader finish the book. In a work of nonfiction, the hook is just as important, but it has to assure the reader that he will get what he came for. In The Good News We Almost ForgotKevin DeYoung delivers the goods, starting with the foreword.

“A catechism is not a man-made add on to the Bible; it’s instruction in good theology derived from the Scriptures.” That’s good to know, because one of my first excuses to avoid the catechism is that I insist on the Bible alone. Who needs additional truth? God’s word is sufficient in itself. DeYoung promises that the Heidelberg Catechism is no more and no less than explanation and affirmation of the Bible.

Early in the book, DeYoung offers a general outline of the Heidelberg Catechism. Suddenly, it’s not such a long, disjointed document; for me it became a simple, cohesive and relatively compact way to digest the essence of the gospel.

The Heidelberg’s 129 questions are divided into 52 Lord’s Days, making it easy to preach from weekly. DeYoung uses each Lord’s Day as the material for a chapter. A brief scan of the table of contents reveals a logical progression: man’s misery, man’s deliverance and man’s response. DeYoung offers a simpler description: guilt, grace, gratitude.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so rich and infinite, that we can never expect to master it in our humanity. At the same time, the Gospel is so simple that even children can grasp it’s great value and enjoy a personal relationship with the Father who loves them enough to sacrifice His one and only Son. Until DeYoung linked those three short words together: guilt, grace, gratitude, I had never considered how concise the message of redemption is.

Guilt, Grace, Gratitude. They provide a framework not only for the catechism, but for the Bible. In the example of Israel, God firmly establishes man’s guilt and inability to save himself. Through the giving of the Law, depravity is confirmed. Following a 400 year silence, Grace slips quietly into the picture in the form of a baby. Effusive Gratitude spills over the pages of the Epistles as the authors joyfully proclaim the excellencies of God’s salvation.

DeYoung confesses in the introduction that the catechism has been good for his own life and ministry. It narrowed his focus on the gospel. Even in the first 9 Lord’s Days I have found the same thing.

Try as you may, Christian, you can’t out grow the gospel. And if for a moment you think you have reached beyond the basics, I challenge you to pick up this book. Sparks get smaller, cooler and extinguish as they float past their birthing flame. Lay low and close the coals, let the fire of your faith revive as you discover The Good News You Almost Forgot. 

RED

Red, ripe as blood and sweet as pain.

Red flashes, danger nears.

Red the tint of smoke-warmed skies.

Red does anger best on a page. 

Red streaks infection.

Red, the flush of humiliation. 

Red lolls between fangs in a threatening mouth.

Red the irrevocable stain. 

Red screams, “STOP.” 

 

Red swoops in cursive ‘cross a valentine.

Red blinks, help is on the way. 

Red spreads a smile from ear to ear. 

Red the delightful bite of old merlot. 

Red the life inflating veins. 

Red the belly of spring’s robin. 

Red polka-dots on summer’s floor.

Red shares warmth from winter’s hearth.

Red the shade of fertile earth. 

 

Red, the words, “I love you.”

Before you start preaching…

Yesterday I read 1 Samuel 25-26 in my through-the-Bible-in-a-year program.  Obviously, I’m interested in this story, my namesake is a heroine described as, ” discerning and beautiful.”  Oh to be like her!

But I lit upon something I hadn’t thought about before.  When Abigail hurried to appease David, she didn’t just go with a good argument.  She immediately prepared a gift.  Not just any gift, but exactly what David had asked for and needed most.  David had sent his men to request provision from Nabal.  They had been protecting Nabal’s shepherds as they were preoccupied shearing their sheep.  In exchange for his goodness and friendship, David simply asked Nabal for reasonable generosity.  So when Abigail went out to meet David, she took with her loaves and wine, figs, raisins and sheep and grain.  I can only speculate how David might have responded to her petition if she had not come with her hands extended.

I was wondering about how this might apply to sharing the gospel.  Many of the people I run into have been offended by “Christians.” To be fair, many who claim to be Christians are not, and their hypocritical behavior and judgmental attitudes give Christ a bad name.  Others, who are sincere in their faith, are simply rash and fail to listen to the Holy Spirit in order to speak the truth in love.  After a run in with one of these self-proclaimed preachers, many unbelievers are convinced that they want nothing to do with Jesus.

So, how to mend the bridge and begin again?  How do we defend the name of Jesus and “snatch these souls from the fire.”(Jude 22)?  What about taking a gift?  What are they needing the most – physically?

What about the homeless guy who watches a Christian “good Samaritan” walk right by him 100 times?  What if that Christian took a gift, met the guy’s needs, first?

What about the gift of a listening ear?  Maybe they only wanted to ask questions or think out loud about what they believe?  What if we offered the gift of humble, respectful attentiveness before exploding all over them with what we think?

I could try this in my marriage.  What if instead of giving Patrick a piece of my mind or my oh-so-educated opinion; instead of slathering him with advice when he is about to make a mistake, what if I met his personal needs first?

This concept is repeated in Proverbs, so I’m sure that I’m not making it up, or stretching the story.

Proverbs 18:16  “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.”

Proverbs 21:14 “A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.”