“How Do You Respond to Criticism?” June 14

 

How Do You Respond to Criticism? - Criticism, anger, sarcasm: Words have an effect on our lives and the lives of those around us. How should we use our words and how should we respond when someone criticizes us?

Criticism, anger, sarcasm: Words have an effect on our lives and the lives of those around us. How we speak says more about what’s going on in our hearts than the other person’s!
And what about when someone criticizes us? Does how we respond reveal things about us, as well? Can we respond in ways that allow us to benefit from even the most unfair criticism?

 

Today’s Readings:
2 Kings 15 & 16
Psalm 73.21-28
Proverbs 18.20-21
John 21.1-25

 

How Do You Respond to Criticism?

 

Responding Well to Criticism

2 Kings 15 & 16:

 

Chapter 15 summarizes the reigns of Azariah, also called Uzziah, and his son Jothan. The Scripture says they did what was right in the sight of the Lord in many ways, although both tolerated the idolatrous practices of the people.

But then … verse 5:

“Then the LORD struck the king, so that he was a leper until the day of his death …”

What happened?

The parallel passage in 2 Chronicles gives us some insight. After serving the Lord well and seeing God prosper his efforts, Uzziah (Azariah) got puffed up with pride and tried to usurp the priestly role by going into the temple to burn incense on the altar of incense, something only the priest was to do. But even then, God didn’t strike him with leprosy until he refused to listen to the High Priest when rebuked (2 Chron. 26.16-23).

This is a great reminder to us to heed God’s Word and listen to wise counsel. And when we are rebuked, corrected, or criticized, we need to consider it carefully and prayerfully. Even when it seems unfair, we should ask the Lord if there is even a nugget of truth in what was said.

 

This is a great reminder to us to heed God’s Word and listen to wise counsel. And when we are rebuked, corrected, or criticized, we need to consider it carefully and prayerfully. Even when it seems unfair, we should ask the Lord if there is even a nugget of truth in what was said.

 

A great little booklet about how to receive criticism is called Words That Cut. It’s available through Peacemaker Ministries. If you’re not familiar with their ministry and materials, you might want to check out their website.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

God Our Strength and Portion Forever

Psalm 73.21-28:

 

After all his complaining the psalmist turns his attention to God. Verses 21-26:

21 Thus my heart was grieved,
And I was vexed in my mind.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
24 You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

The psalmist was convicted over his own sinful attitude (vvs. 21-24), but also aware of God’s grace, “Nevertheless I am continually with You …”  Continue reading

“Friends & Enemies: Kisses, Winks & Whispers” May 22

 

Friends & Enemies: Kisses, Winks & WhispersFriendships can be confusing. Sometimes those who appear to be our friends turn out to be our enemies, at least spiritually, and our critics can be truer friends.

But what about unfair criticism or people who simply attack us? How should we handle it when we believe criticism is unjustified or motives are evil? Can God truly use those situations for good?

 

Today’s Readings:

2 Samuel 15 & 16
Psalm 66.8-15
Proverbs 16.27-30
John 7.1-27

 

Friends & Enemies: Kisses, Winks & Whispers

 

2 Samuel 15 & 16:

The Sovereignty of God When People Whisper & Criticize

 

In these two chapters, we see David’s trust in the sovereignty of God in what must have been two very difficult situations.

First, the broken relationship between him and his son Absalom has lead to bitterness and now rebellion on Absalom’s part. He has been secretly plotting to overthrow his father by deceiving the people. He is now on his way to take Jerusalem.

David gets word and is fleeing the city along with his household and hundreds of his men. When Zadok the Priest joins him, David says:

“Then the king said to Zadok, ‘Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, He will bring me back and show me both it and His dwelling place. But if He says thus. “I have no delight in you,” here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him'” (15.26).

Then in chapter 16, Shimei, one of former King Saul’s descendants, follows David and his men cursing and throwing stones at him. Abishai, one of his generals, offers to take off Shimei’s head! David responds by saying:

“So let him curse, because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ And David said to Abishai and all his servants, ‘See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day.”

 

Responding to Our Critics

 

This is a great example of how we should respond to criticism in our lives. Whether or not the criticism is justified, God has allowed it for some purpose. If it’s unfair or ill-intended, we can trust God to deal with it.  Continue reading

“Could you be acting ‘dumb as an ox’?” March 17

 

Are you acting "dumb as an ox"? - God says there is a time when we can truly be "dumb as an ox," but it has nothing to do with intelligence. How can understanding what really happened at the Cross help us overcome our own tendency toward foolishness and stupidity and, instead, help us grow in wisdom?God says there is a time when we can truly be “dumb as an ox,” but it has nothing to do with intelligence. How can understanding what really happened at the Cross help us overcome our own tendency toward foolishness and stupidity and, instead, help us grow in wisdom?

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 31 & 32
Psalm 35.1-8
Proverbs 12.1
Mark 14.55-72

 

“Could you be acting ‘dumb as an ox’?”

 

Proverbs 12.1:

Acting Stupid

 

“Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”

The word translated “stupid” comes from a word meaning “to graze.” One who hates to be corrected is unteachable like an ignorant animal, like the old saying goes, “dumb as an ox.” Not a very flattering picture.

Teaching and correction are part of God’s means of grace to help us grow and mature as believers. A refusal to accept correction reveals an attitude of pride.

However, those who “love instruction” and submit themselves to correction are co-operating with God’s means of grace. They are able to learn from the wisdom of others instead of suffering the consequences of foolishness and poor choices.

But criticism, especially when it seems unjustified, can be so difficult to receive.

Why, when we’re criticized, do we so quickly become defensive? Because we believe something much bigger is at stake, our reputation. We’re often so convinced of the need to prove ourselves right in the eyes of others that we’re willing to damage relationships to do so (Jas. 4.1-4).

Alfred Poirier in his little booklet Words that Cut from Peacemaker Ministries, says:

In short, our idolatrous desire to justify ourselves fuels our inability to take criticism, which, in turn, is the cause for much conflict. It is the reason that many marriages and family members split, factions form, and relationships grow cold. And it is the reason we so desperately need the direction provided in Scripture to begin forming a redemptive, godward view of criticism.

Proverbs repeatedly shows us the importance of being able to receive rebuke, correction and criticism.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (Prov. 9.9).

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But he who heeds counsel is wise (Prov. 12.15).

By pride comes nothing but strife,
But with the well-advised is wisdom (Prov. 13.10).

He who disdains instruction despises his own soul,
But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding (Prov. 15.32).

Rebuke is more effective for a wise man
Than a hundred blows on a fool (Prov. 17.10).

And in Psalm 141.5 David said:

Let the righteous strike me;
It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me;
It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it.

Is that how you respond to criticism? I know I don’t. I fight the tendency to respond like a stupid ox! And lately, God has given me some excellent opportunities to see just how much of that tendency I still have!

So how can I (and possible some of you) become more like David?

The answer is in understanding just what God said about us at the cross.

At the cross God criticized, in fact, judged us as sinners whose only just punishment was death (Rom. 3.10-18, 23, 6.23). Alfred Poirier says:

In light of these massive charges against us, any accusations launched at us are mere understatements about who we are and what we’ve done!

To claim to be a Christian is to claim to be a person who has understood criticism. The Christian is a person who has stood under the greatest criticism–God’s criticism–and agreed with it! As people who have been “crucified with Christ,” we acknowledge, agree, and approve of God’s judgments against us. We confess, “I am a Sinner! I am a Lawbreaker! I deserve death!” Do you see how radical a confession that is?

But the good news is that God has not only judged us, He has justified us. When we realize that it’s not about our righteousness. We don’t have to boast or defend our goodness or performance. Now we boast in Christ’s righteousness.

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1.30-31).

And instead of becoming defensive when criticized, the wise realize there is value in it. Remember what David said, “Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness.” 

If we remember we’re sinners, we can accept the fact that we have blind spots and, even when criticism is unjust, we can look for what God might be teaching us or exposing in our hearts. All criticism, ultimately, comes from the hand of our Sovereign God.

So, how do we get there?  Continue reading

“When Treated Unfairly” December 14

 

When Treated Unfairly

Have you ever been misjudged, falsely accused, or passed over by someone in leadership? Have you ever been hurt or mistreated? What do you think about at those times? How can you learn to  trust God in a greater way?

Also, find out why God would call a group of women “cows of Bashan” and how we can be sure we don’t act like them.

 

Today’s Readings:
Amos 4-7
Psalm 141.5-10
Proverbs 29.26
Revelation 4.1-11

 

Well, we are nearing the end of our journey on “the Bible bus” as J. Vernon McGee used to call it. I’d love to know how reading through the Bible has impacted you. Please take a few minutes and let me know. What has been your favorite book so far? What has changed in your life? How have you been able to apply what you are learning (the most important question of all)?

Are you already thinking about the coming year? I know I am. Every year is an exciting adventure in knowing God better through His Word! I’ll continue these “read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year” posts, along with more topical posts. I hope you’ll join me.

On to the magnificent Word …

 

When Treated Unfairly

 

Proverbs 29.26:

God’s Unstoppable Plans 

 

Thoughtful man hurt depression guilt sadness

“Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the LORD.”

Have you ever been misjudged, falsely accused, or passed over by someone in leadership? Have you ever been hurt or mistreated?

What do you think about at those times? As believers we need to meditate on God’s wonderful attributes and remember who is really in control.

First of all, we need to remember that He is good! If He allows us to go through some test or trial, it’s for our good (Rom. 8.28-29). It’s intended to help us grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22-23) and come to trust Him more.

Second, God is Sovereign—He is completely in control. He is omnipotent—all powerful. He has the power and the ability to bring about whatever He chooses.

Job 42.2 says, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”

Think about that; God’s unstoppable plans, His perfect plans and purposes, will come to pass.

He is, also, omnipresent. He is present everywhere and at all times! He is omniscient. He knows everything. Nothing we think about, nothing we do, and nothing that happens to us is a secret to Him.

He is a God of love, a God of mercy, and perfectly holy. But He is also a God of justice.

So, since He knows everything, He has the power to do whatever He needs to do, He is completely sovereign, a God of justice, and He loves His children, He is well able to take care of You and make all things right in His time. Put your faith and trust in Him. He is our faithful, loving Father! Trust in His unstoppable, wonderful plans!

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Amos 4-7:

You cows of Bashan!

 

cows

Amos was written primarily to the Northern tribes (Samaria) during a time of relative peace and prosperity. In chapter 4 Amos begins by addressing the women of Samaria calling them “cows of Bashan.” Wow, that’s pretty harsh!

The problem was that these women were living in luxury and encouraging their husbands to focus on material prosperity. Verse 1, “Who say to your husbands, ‘Bring wine, let us drink!’” And they had no regard for those less fortunate, “Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy …”

As wives and mothers and sisters, we have much more influence over our families than we think or like to admit. How are we influencing them? What is our focus? Could we be acting like the “cows of Bashan”? Are we saying we want our husbands to be godly leaders and our sons to grow up to be godly men … all the while putting our focus on material things, pushing them to get a better job, more education, and provide more “stuff”?  Continue reading

“Does being good matter?” November 1

 

Does being good matter? - When you look around and see the ungodly prospering and others living any way they want, have you ever wondered, does being good matter? Why do some people seem to have no remorse for they way they live and even mock those who try to live right?When you look around and see the ungodly prospering and others living any way they want, have you ever wondered, does being good matter? Why do some people seem to have no remorse for the way they live and even mock those who try to live right?

 

Today’s Readings:
Jeremiah 49 & 50
Psalm 119.121-128
Proverbs 28.6
Titus 1.1-16

 

Does being good matter?

 

Proverbs 28.6:

Does it really matter?

does being good matter

“Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.”

In Psalm 73 the psalmist looked around and saw the ungodly prospering and, at one point said, “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain …”

Have you ever felt that way? Like you are being good for nothing? That it doesn’t really matter?

Maybe you’re remaining sexually pure and waiting on God’s choice of a mate, while people all around you are getting married, including those who have lived immoral lives.

Maybe you just get by financially while you see unbelievers prospering. Or while you have integrity on the job, others get promoted.

Maybe you took your kids to church and tried to raise them right, yet they have chosen to go their own wayContinue reading

“Why We Can’t Think Straight” July 5

 

Why We Can't Think Straight - Sometimes we truly "can't see the forest for the trees," as the saying goes. If we are made in the image of God, why do so many people come to wrong conclusions and false beliefs? Why can't we think straight?Sometimes we truly “can’t see the forest for the trees,” as the saying goes. If we are made in the image of God, why do so many people come to wrong conclusions and false beliefs? Why can’t we think straight?

 

Today’s Readings:
2 Chronicles 5 & 6
Psalm 79.11-13
Proverbs 20.13-14
Acts 13.1-25

 

Why We Can’t Think Straight

 

2 Chronicles 5 &6:

The God of All Men

The temple has been completed and in chapter 6, he prays and dedicates it to the Lord:

12 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands 13 (for Solomon had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court; and he stood on it, knelt down on his knees before all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven); 14 and he said: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts.

18 … Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! 19 Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You: 20 that Your eyes may be open toward this temple day and night, toward the place where You said You would put Your name, that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. 21 And may You hear the supplications of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive.

He prays for the nation of Israel and then he prays for all who will come to the temple in faith:

32 “Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for the sake of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray in this temple; 33 then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel …

Over and over we see God’s desire for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2.4) even here in the Old Testament.

 

He Alone Knows Our Hearts

Chapter 6.29-30, “whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows his own burden and his own grief, and spreads out his hands to this temple: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men).”

“… for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men”—Jeremiah said it this way:  Continue reading

“Is this all there is?” June 27

 

Is this all there is? - We live in one of the most blessed and prosperous nations in the world. We have every kind of entertainment, all kinds of "toys," and yet, instead of finding satisfaction, we often find ourselves asking, "Is this all there is?"We live in one of the most blessed and prosperous nations in the world. We have every kind of entertainment, all kinds of “toys,” and yet, instead of finding satisfaction, we often find ourselves asking, “Is this all there is?”

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Chronicles 17 & 18
Psalm 78.17-25
Proverbs 19.25-26
Acts 8.1-25

 

Is this all there is?

 

Psalm 78.17-25:

Finding Satisfaction & Contentment in Him

In this portion of the psalm, the psalmist talks of the people’s dissatisfaction with God’s provision. It’s easy to point our fingers and shake our heads when we read passages like this, but how like us they were!

Proverbs 27.20 says, “Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”

We are living in one of the most blessed and prosperous nations in the world. Even those of us living relatively modest lives are abundantly blessed compared to many other nations, and yet, it is so easy to look around and want more, to look around and say “why does God seem to be blessing her and not me.” Or “if only I had such and such” life would be so much better.

We have every kind of entertainment, all kinds of “toys,” and yet, we are easily bored. “Is this all there is?” has been the theme of numerous books, movies and songs.

Psalm 90.14 in the American Standard Version says:

“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

We need to pray regularly that our hearts will be satisfied in God, the only true source of satisfaction, and not look to the world for it!

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

1 Chronicles 17 & 18:

His Hand Holds the Future

The chronicler continues to recount the story of David’s reign. In today’s reading he emphasizes God’s promise to David that his son would sit on the throne after him. It had a near application in Solomon and a messianic application, as well.

Notice David’s response to all of this in chapter 17:  Continue reading

December 14 “God’s unstoppable plans”

God's unstoppable plansYou can trust in God’s unstoppable plans even when you are criticized, passed over, or treated unfairly. No plan of His can be thwarted and He allows nothing into our lives that He can’t and won’t use for good.

 

 

 

Today’s Readings:
Amos 4-7
Psalm 141.5-10
Proverbs 29.26
Revelation 4.1-11

Well, we are nearing the end of our journey on “the Bible bus” as J. Vernon McGee used to call it. I’d love to know how reading through the Bible has impacted you. Please take a few minutes and let me know. What has been your favorite book so far? What has changed in your life? How have you been able to apply what you are learning (the most important question of all)?

Are you already thinking about this coming year? I know I am. Every year is an exciting adventure in knowing God better through His Word! I’ll continue these “read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year” posts and I’ll be adding some new things. First, there will be more topical posts. And there will be two new regular features: “Wisdom Wednesdays” (a study from Proverbs) and “Bite-Sized Theology Thursdays” (a study in the basics of the Christian faith in simple, everyday language). Sign up to receive “Bible in a Year” emails and/or “Christian Living” emails to receive all the other posts.

On to the magnificent Word …

 

cows on fieldsAmos 4-7:

You cows of Bashan!

Amos was written primarily to the Northern tribes (Samaria) during a time of relative peace and prosperity. In chapter 4 Amos begins by addressing the women of Samaria addressing them “you cows of Bashan.” Wow, that’s pretty harsh!

The problem was that these women were living in luxury and encouraging their husbands to focus on material prosperity. Verse 1, “Who say to your husbands, ‘Bring wine, let us drink!’” And they had no regard for those less fortunate, “Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy …”

As wives and mothers and sisters, we have much more influence over our families than we think or like to admit. Are we acting like the “cows of Bashan”? What is our focus? Are we saying we want our husbands to be godly leaders and our sons to grow up to be godly men … all the while putting our focus on material things, pushing them to get a better job, more education, and provide more “stuff”?

Or do we encourage them to consider the spiritual implications of a job or career first and foremost? Will it allow them time to serve the Lord? Will having that bigger house make it difficult for us to give to the work of God? How do our lifestyles, our careers, and our goals fit with God’s plans and purposes? Whose agenda are we on, His or ours?

And husbands, are you leading your wives in this area? You are to wash us with the water of the Word (Eph. 5.26), pray for us, help us to grow spiritually, and lead by example.

Matthew 6 says:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where is your treasure and therefore your heart?

 

finger pointingPsalm 141.5-10:

Receiving criticism

Chapter 141.5, “Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it.”

Proverbs 27.6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

How do you respond to criticism? Do you welcome it, taking it to God and asking Him to show you how you need to grow and change? Or do you get defensive and choose to be offended? God can even use ungodly, unfair criticism for our good if we will take it to Him and ask Him to show us any element of truth in it. Continue reading

June 27 “Satisfaction: Is this all there is?”

satisfaction

We live in one of the most blessed and prosperous nations in the world. We have every kind of entertainment, all kinds of “toys,” and yet, instead of finding satisfaction, we often find ourselves asking, “Is this all there is?”

Today’s Readings:
1 Chronicles 17 & 18
Psalm 78.17-25
Proverbs 19.25-26
Acts 8.1-25

1 Chronicles 17 & 18:

His hand holds the future

The chronicler continues to recount the story of David’s reign. In today’s reading he emphasizes God’s promise to David that his son would sit on the throne after him. It has a near application in Solomon and a messianic application, as well. Continue reading

June 14 “Words, criticism & imperfect saints”

Words have an effect on our lives and the lives of those around us. How should we use our words and how should we respond when someone criticizes us?

criticism

Today’s Readings:
2 Kings 15 & 16
Psalm 73.21-28
Proverbs 18.20-21
John 21.1-25

2 Kings 15 & 16:

Responding to criticism

Chapter 15 summarizes the reigns of Azariah, also called Uzziah, and his son Jothan. The Scripture says they did what was right in the sight of the Lord in many ways, although both tolerated the idolatrous practices of the people.

But then … verse 5? “Then the LORD struck the king, so that he was a leper until the day of his death …” What happened?

The parallel passage in 2 Chronicles gives us some insight. After serving the Lord well and seeing God prosper his efforts, Uzziah (Azariah) got puffed up with pride and tried to usurp the priestly role by going into the temple to burn incense on the altar of incense, something only the priest was to do. But even then, God didn’t strike him with leprosy until he refused to listen to the High Priest when he rebuked him (2 Chron. 26.16-23).

This is a great reminder to us to heed God’s Word and listen to wise counsel. And when we are rebuked, corrected, or criticized, we need to consider it carefully and prayerfully. Ask the Lord if there is even a nugget of truth in what is being said.

A great little booklet about how to receive criticism is called Words That Cut. It’s available through Peacemaker Ministries. If you’re not familiar with their ministry and materials, you might want to check out their website. Continue reading