How to avoid criticism

Will RogersIf you’ve felt the sting of the critic’s mean words it’s natural to want to avoid future attacks.

And it’s really easy to avoid criticism.

Simply do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
In short, waste your life and no one will criticize you.
(Except perhaps your parents because they love you enough to tell you you’re wasting your life.)

If you could live you whole life and do nothing but good you still could not avoid criticism.
One man did that and they nailed him to a cross three years after He went public.

Will Rogers said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.”
At first I thought that was an outlandish statement – especially since he knew so many politicians in his day. 🙂

But years later it dawned on me what he was saying. Continue reading

What are you full of?

Crying out to GodOne day a broken hearted woman went to church to pray. Unfortunately she chose a church where the priest was out of touch with God. Since fervent and intense prayer was not something he was accustomed to when he saw her passionately imploring the Lord to answer her prayers, he assumed she must be drunk and rebuked her for coming to church like that.

Jesus said what we fill our heart with is what will inevitably come out our mouth. Because this priest’s heart was cold toward God his default setting was judgment, not mercy. He immediately assumed the worst rather than defaulting to the best. But love “always looks for the best”. (1 Corinthians 13:7 MSG)

What we fill our heart with colors how we see others and how we see the world. If we think the world is against us, that no one likes us, that people are judging us we react in ways that cause that to happen. If we are always attune to the negative, always quick with criticism, always assuming the worst we make it harder for people to approach us, to love us. Continue reading

Ever Feel Helpless – Part 2

Weak as a king?THE STORY
Abner, the commander of Saul’s armies was faithful to Saul’s family even after Saul’s death. But Saul’s family insulted him and he defected to David’s side planning to bring his troops with him. This would have saved many Israeli lives, brought peace to the kingdom and immediately established David as king over all of Israel.

But the commander of David’s army, Joab wanted to kill Abner to avenge the death of his brother that Abner had killed in battle. Without David knowing it Joab deceived Abner and killed him before peace could be established. Upon hearing of this, David says this interesting thing:

And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!” (2 Samuel 3:39)

Do you ever feel helpless against evil people or situations in your life? Am I the only one that at times has wished I could stop being a king (Child of God) for just a few hours? “If I weren’t a Christian I could do this and then do that. But as a Christian I have to ‘turn the other cheek’, ‘bless those who do evil to me’, ‘pray for them’, love them.’ UGH! How can a king be so powerless to attack evil?” Continue reading

Ever feel helpless?

helplessA  story in 2 Samuel really caught my attention. Abner, the commander of Saul’s armies was faithful to Saul’s family even after Saul’s death. But they insulted him and he defected to David’s side planning to bring his troops with him. This would have saved many Israeli lives, brought peace to the kingdom and immediately established David as king over all of Israel. (Judah had already recognized him as king once Saul was killed in battle against the Philistines.)

But the commander of David’s army, Joab, wanted to kill Abner to avenge his brother who Abner had killed in battle. Without David knowing it Joab deceived Abner and killed him before peace could be established. Upon hearing of this, David says this interesting thing:

And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!” (2 Samuel 3:39)

Can you hear the frustration of David? I am king but I am still powerless against evil. These sons of my sister, Zeruiah, (yes, they were family) are out of control and do whatever they want. I am powerless. Continue reading

Why I do dumb things

alien fingerTammie Burger is a concert pianist and her husband, Stephen, is a “shrink” – therapist. They are also a missionary Pastoral Care couple with Commission To Every Nation doing a wonderful job of giving care and oversight to CTEN missionaries in Central America. I felt this post had insight that could help many of us understand at least one reason we may do dumb things – even when we know better. I hope it helps you like it did me.     – Rick

I took a tumble in the yard and dislocated the ring finger on my left hand. It was all askew. Grotesque, actually. I thought it was broken, but Stephen saw it was dislocated, grabbed it and put it back into place. Not a happy thing, but even more disheartening, because I am preparing a series of classical piano concerts–the first one is in less than a month.

My hand feels foreign after the trauma, and my finger is quite awkward and definitely slow. Still swollen, still bruised. But, if you’re going to mess up a finger and still try to play the piano, the ring finger on the left hand is definitely the one to choose….you can work around it.

I’m working on Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata–which I learned originally when I was 13. With all the shortcuts and bad habits 13 year-olds will develop. I used particularly bad fingering when I originally learned it, but years later did the right thing and spent a lot of time fixing the fingering. It took a long time to unlearn those bad habits, but worth the effort. I rued my youthful mistakes, but worked through them. I’ve performed the piece several times since then. Continue reading

Where to find God

Gone FishingSometimes it seems like God is hiding. We pray and … nothing. I discovered something in Psalm 146 that might help us find Him the next time He seems away on vacation.

Psalm 146 talks about the “oppressed”, the “hungry”, the “prisoners”, the “blind”, “those who are bowed down”, “the foreigner”, “the fatherless and the widow”. Right in the middle of this suffering and oppressed group of people it says one line about the righteous that seems out of place. Why would this statement about “the righteous” be found among a list of oppressed and broken people?

Perhaps because when Righteousness walked the earth in human form He gravitated toward that group of people. Jesus spent His time among the sick, the sorrowful, those who knew their need of a Savior but felt far from God as He was presented by the religious system.

True Righteousness will always walk among the poor, reach out to the lost one, run to embrace the one who has been among the pigs, wreaks of the slop trough and comes acknowledging, “I am not worthy”.

Jesus could have come as a king, lived in comfort and opulence proclaiming His message to the masses from a solid gold chariot drawn by a team of magnificent horses. Certainly this would have made his divinity seem more palatable, more believable. He could have maintained a respectable distance from the dust and filth of humanity but it was from dust He chose to make man. He chose to once again get His hands dirty to redeem man.

What a remarkable love that caused Him to descend to the lowest depths in order to make it possible for us to ascend to the highest heights. What a Savior! What a God!

So where are we likely to find God? Right at the point of our most desperate need – among the poor in spirit, the broken, the contrite and humble. If that is where you are, go and do something to bless someone who is worse off than you and I guarantee you will find God right there beside you.
James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Good news / Bad news about forgiveness

wild oatsI found a great message of encouragement but also a sobering warning – and I need both – in 1 Kings 21:25-29

(There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.) When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”

Ahab was unsurpassed in his evil yet, when he humbled himself before the Lord God spared him the full consequences of his sin. What a word to encourage the one who thinks he has wandered too far. Even Ahab was not beyond the grace of God. When he sincerely humbled himself he caught the eye and captured the mercy of God. But there is more … Continue reading

Slaughter, Savagery and God’s Glory

martyrsFor years Christians have been routinely slaughtered around the world but with the coming of the Islamic State of Iraq it’s finally front page news. The focus on it and graphic awareness that news coverage brings is causing Christians to get discouraged, frightened, angry, saddened and confused. Undoubtedly there has been “a great disturbance in the force” but could it be that the disturbance is one of rejoicing?

Scripture says “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). Wherever the church has gone martyrdom has always followed. As Tertullian stated, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

In fact, we get our word “martyr” from the Greek word translated “witness”. So, when Jesus said, you shall be my witnesses, the first disciples heard, “you shall be my martyrs”. A martyr is simply one who testifies to the truth of his message by his willingness to sacrifice his very life rather than deny the message.

As we see the horrific pictures of butchered Christians we are repulsed and can easily wonder, “where is God, where is our government, where is hope in the midst of this mess?” But there is another level which sees that each of those who bowed their head rather than bow their knee was screaming with their own blood, “Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

The first martyr of the church, Stephen, proclaimed forgiveness and witnessed to the truth of his message in a way that surely impacted the future apostle Paul. In the early apologetic story, Octavius points out that Romans praise to high heaven men who suffered great agonies for the cause of Rome but among Christians even the women and young boys “treat with contempt” the tortures heaped upon them rather than deny their faith. In the same way, the death of each of these in Iraq and around the globe –men, women and children – screams to the executioner that Jesus Christ is Lord and worthy of their very lives.

We can be certain that with each death a roar of applause goes up from that “great cloud of witnesses” as these runners cross the finish line and are triumphantly welcomed home by their Lord and Saviour. “Well done. Race well run. Enter in to the joy of your salvation.”

I am not saying we should do nothing to oppose the evil. We are still called to “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” but we must see this world from a higher plane. The news media will not give us this exalted perspective. We must get it from the Word and from God’s messengers to the church, its leaders.

Pastors, we must draw back the curtain and allow Christians to see a higher, a more glorious picture of what is happening around us. Our response was laid out by Paul in his letter to another church familiar with martyrdom.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:14, 15, 21 NIV

Any institution is only as solid as the foundation upon which it is laid. The foundation of this new Caliphate is being laid upon the “seeds of the church” – the death of God’s saints.

Yes, we pray the Lord will “deliver us from evil”. Yes we pray for God to forgive those guilty of these horrors. Yes we take what actions we can righteously take to put a stop to it. But we must never forget God is still at the helm of the universe. These and even greater evils to come were all foretold thousands of years ago but just as surely as these prophetic nightmares are being fulfilled, so will the glorious prophecies of a coming kingdom of peace, justice and righteousness.

Look up saints. Lift your head. Your Deliverer is coming.


God made him sick

SickThis little story really rattles my cage. What do you think??

“Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah began to reign. … He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. … The Lord afflicted Azariah with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house.” (2 Kings 15:1-5 NIV)

What?! This man obeyed God, was a good king and yet the Lord afflicted him with leprosy – the most dreaded disease of that day. Note it specifically says the Lord gave him this affliction. Sorry if that rattles your theological cage. I don’t like the idea either but it plainly says God did this.

So where is the justice in this? How can God do such a thing to a man who is walking in obedience? It would be one thing if it said God “allowed” it but it clearly says God caused it. Can we even trust God to be just when He does stuff like this to a good king who is faithfully serving Him?

I have found when I have questions about Scripture the best commentary on Scripture is the Scripture itself. Often, the answer to hard questions is found within the pages of the Bible if I will just diligently search it out. And that is the case here. Continue reading